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i2mo. New York: Henry Holt & Co. London and Bom- 
bay : Longmans, Green & Co. 1899. 


Edited, with an Introduction, by William James. With 
Portrait. Crown 8vo. Boston : Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 







EDINBURGH IN 1901-1902 













THIS book would never have been written had I not 
been honored with an appointment as Gifford Lec- 
turer on Natural Religion at the University of Edinburgh. 
In casting about me for subjects of the two courses of 
ten lectures each for which I thus became responsible, 
it seemed to me that the first course might well be a 
descriptive one on ' Man's Religious Appetites/ and the 
second a metaphysical one on ' Then Satisfaction through 
Philosophy.' But the unexpected growth of the psycho- 
logical matter as I came to write it out has resulted in 
the second subject being postponed entirely, and the 
description of man's religious constitution now fills the 
twenty lectures. In Lecture XX I have suggested 
rather than stated my own philosophic conclusions, and 
the reader who desires immediately to know them should 
turn to pages 511-519, and to the l Postscript ' of the 
book. I hope to be able at some later day to express 
them in more explicit form. 

In my belief that a large acquaintance with particulars 
often makes us wiser than the possession of abstract for- 
mulas, however deep, I have loaded the lectures with 
concrete examples, and I have chosen these among the 
extremer expressions of the religious temperament. To 
some readers I may consequently seem, before they get 
beyond the middle of the book, to offer a caricature of 


the subject. Such convulsions of piety, they will say, 
are not sane. If, however, they will have the patience 
to read to the end, I believe that this unfavorable impres- 
sion will disappear; for I there combine the religious 
impulses with other principles of common sense which 
serve as correctives of exaggeration, and allow the indi- 
vidual reader to draw as moderate conclusions as he will. 
My thanks for help in writing these lectures are due 
to Edwin D. Starbuck, of Stanford University, who made 
over to me his large collection of manuscript material ; 
to Henry W. Rankin, of East Northfield, a friend unseen 
but proved, to whom I owe precious information; to 
Theodore Flournoy, of Geneva, to Canning Schiller, of 
Oxford, and to my colleague Benjamin Rand, for docu- 
ments ; to my colleague Dickinson S. Miller, and to my 
friends, Thomas Wren Ward, of New York, and Win- 
centy Lutoslawski, late of Cracow, for important sugges- 
tions and advice. Finally, to conversations with the 
lamented Thomas Davidson and to the use of his books, 
at Glenmore, above Keene Valley, I owe more obliga- 
tions than I can well express. 

Harvard University, 
March, 1902. 




Religion and Neurology 

Introduction : the course is not anthropological, hut deals 
with personal documents, 1. Questions of fact and questions of 
value, 4. In point of fact, the religious are often neurotic, 6. 
Criticism of medical materialism, which condemns religion on 
that account, 10. Theory that religion has a sexual origin 
refuted, 11. All states of mind are neurally conditioned, 14. 
Their significance must be tested not by their origin but by 
the value of their fruits, 15. Three criteria of value ; ori- 
gin useless as a criterion, 18. Advantages of the psychopathic 
temperament when a superior intellect goes with it, 22 ; 
especially for the religious life, 24. 


Circumscription of the Topic ...... 26 

Futility of simple definitions of religion, 26. No one specific 
' religious sentiment,' 27. Institutional and personal religion, 
28. We confine ourselves to the personal branch, 29. Definition 
of religion for the purpose of these lectures, 31. Meaning of 
the term ' divine,' 31. The divine is what prompts solemn re- 
actions, 38. Impossible to make our definitions sharp, 39. We 
must study the more extreme cases, 40. Two ways of accepting 
the universe, 41. Religion is more enthusiastic than philosophy, 
45. Its characteristic is enthusiasm in solemn emotion, 48. Its 
ability to overcome unhappiness, 50. Need of such a faculty 
from the biological point of view, 51. 


The Reality of the Unseen ...... 53 

Percepts versus abstract concepts, 53. Influence of the latter 
on belief, 54. Kant's theological Ideas, 55. We have a sense of 
reality other than that given by the special senses, 58. Examples 
of ' sense of presence, 1 59. The feeling of unreality, 63. Sense 


of a divine presence : examples, 65. Mystical experiences : 
examples, 69. Other cases of sense of God's presence, 70. 
Convincingness of unreasoned experience, 72. Inferiority of 
rationalism in establishing belief, 73. Either enthusiasm or 
solemnity may preponderate in the religious attitude of indi- 
viduals, 75. 


The Religion of Healthy-mindedness . . . .78 
Happiness is man's chief concern, 78. ' Once-born ' and 
' twice-born ' characters, 80. Walt Whitman, 84. Mixed nature 
of Greek feeling, 86. Systematic healthy-mind edness, 87. Its 
reasonableness, 88. Liberal Christianity shows it, 91. Opti- 
mism as encouraged by Popular Science, 92. The ' Mind-cure ' 
movement, 94. Its creed, 97. Cases, 102. Its doctrine of evil, 
106. Its analogy to Lutheran theology, 108. Salvation by relax- 
ation, 109. Its methods : suggestion, 112 ; meditation, 115 ; 
' recollection,' 116 ; verification, 118. Diversity of possible 
schemes of adaptation to the universe, 122. Appendix : Two 
mind-cure cases, 123. 


The Sick Soul ......... 127 

Healthy-mindedness and repentance, 127. Essential plural- 
ism of the healthy-minded philosophy, 131. Morbid-minded- 
ness its two degrees, 134. The pain-threshold varies in indi- 
viduals, 135. Insecurity of natural goods, 136. Failure, or vain 
success of every life, 138. Pessimism of all pure naturalism, 
140. Hopelessness of Greek and Roman view, 142. Pathological 
unhappiness, 144. 'Anhedonia,' 145. Querulous melancholy, 
148. Vital zest is a pure gift, 150. Loss of it makes physical 
world look different, 151. Tolstoy, 152. Bunyan, 157. Alline, 
159. Morbid fear, 160. Such cases need a supernatural religion 
for relief, 162. Antagonism of healthy-mindedness and morbid- 
ness, 163. The problem of evil cannot be escaped, 164. 


The Divided Self, and the Process of its Unification . 166 
Heterogeneous personality, 167. Character gradually attains 
unity, 170. Examples of divided self, 171. The unity attained 
need not be religious, 175. ' Counter conversion ' cases, 177. 


Other cases, 178. Gradual and sudden unification, 183. Tol- 
stoy's recovery, 184. Bunyan's, 186. 


Conversion 189 

Case of Stephen Bradley, 189. The psychology of character- 
changes, 193. Emotional excitements make new centres of per- 
sonal energy, 196. Schematic ways of representing this, 197. 
Starbuck likens conversion to normal moral ripening, 198. 
Leuba's ideas, 201. Seemingly unconvertible persons, 204. 
Two types of conversion, 205. Subconscious incubation of mo- 
tives, 206. Self-surrender, 208. Its importance in religious 
history, 211. Cases, 212. 


Conversion concluded 217 

Cases of sudden conversion, 217. Is suddenness essential ? 
227. No, it depends on psychological idiosyncrasy, 230. Proved 
existence of transmarginal, or subliminal, consciousness, 233. 
' Automatisms,' 234. Instantaneous conversions seem due to 
the possession of an active subconscious self by the subject, 236. 
The value of conversion depends not on the process, but on the 
fruits, 237. These are not superior in sudden conversion, 238. 
Professor Coe's views, 240. Sanctification as a result, 241. 
Our psychological account does not exclude direct presence 
of the Deity, 242. Sense of higher control, 243. Relations of 
the emotional ' faith-state ' to intellectual beliefs, 246. Leuba 
quoted, 247. Characteristics of the faith-state : sense of truth ; 
the world appears new, 248. Sensory and motor automatisms, 
250. Permanency of conversions, 256. 


Saintliness 259 

Sainte-Beuve on the State of Grace, 260. Types of charac- 
ter as due to the balance of impulses and inhibitions, 261. Sov- 
ereign excitements, 262. Irascibility, 264. Effects of higher 
excitement in general, 266. The saintly life is ruled by spir- 
itual excitement, 267. This may annul sensual impulses perma- 
nently, 268. Probable subconscious influences involved, 270. 
Mechanical scheme for representing permanent alteration in 
character, 270. Characteristics of saintliness, 271. Sense of 


reality of a higher power, 274. Peace of mind, charity, 278. 
Equanimity, fortitude, etc., 284. Connection of this with relax- 
ation, 289. Purity of life, 290. Asceticism, 296. Obedience, 
310. Poverty, 315. The sentiments of democracy and of hu- 
manity, 324. General effects of higher excitements, 325. 


The Value of Saintliness . 326 

It must be tested by the human value of its fruits, 327. The 
reality of the God must, however, also be judged, 328. ' Unfit ' 
religions get eliminated by ' experience,' 331. Empiricism is 
not skepticism, 332. Individual and tribal religion, 334. Lone- 
liness of religious originators, 335. Corruption follows success, 
337. Extravagances, 339. Excessive devoutness, as fanaticism, 
340 ; as theopathic absorption, 343. Excessive purity, 348. 
Excessive charity, 355. The perfect man is adapted only to the 
perfect environment, 356. Saints are leavens, 357. Excesses 
of asceticism, 360. Asceticism symbolically stands for the 
heroic life, 363. Militarism and voluntary poverty as possible 
equivalents, 365. Pros and cons of the saintly character, 369. 
Saints versus ' strong ' men, 371. Their social function must 
be considered, 374. Abstractly the saint is the highest type, 
but in the present environment it may fail, so we make our- 
selves saints at our peril, 375. The question of theological 
truth, 377. 


Mysticism 379 

Mysticism defined, 379. Four marks of mystic states, 380. 
They form a distinct region of consciousness, 382. Examples 
of their lower grades, 382. Mysticism and alcohol. 386. ' The 
anaesthetic revelation,' 387. Religious mysticism, 393. Aspects 
of Nature, 394. Consciousness of God, 396. ' Cosmic conscious- 
ness,' 398. Yoga, 400. Buddhistic mysticism, 401. Sufism, 402. 
Christian mystics, 406. Their sense of revelation, 408. Tonic 
effects of mystic states, 414. They describe by negatives, 416. 
Sense of union with the Absolute, 419. Mysticism and music, 
420. Three conclusions, 422. (1) Mystical states carry au- 
thority for him who has them, 423. (2) But for no one else, 
424. (3) Nevertheless, they break down the exclusive author- 
ity of rationalistic states, 427. They strengthen monistic and 
optimistic hypotheses, 428. 



Philosophy 430 

Primacy of feeling in religion, philosophy being a secondary 
function, 430. Intellectualism professes to escape subjective 
standards in her theological constructions, 433. ' Dogmatic 
theology,' 436. Criticism of its account of God's attributes, 
442. ' Pragmatism ' as a test of the value of conceptions, 444. 
God's metaphysical attributes have no practical significance, 
445. His moral attributes are proved by bad arguments ; col- 
lapse of systematic theology, 448. Does transcendental ideal- 
ism fare better? Its principles, 449. Quotations from Jobn 
Caird, 450. They are good as restatements of religious experi- 
ence, but uncoercive as reasoned proof, 453. What philosophy 
can do for religion by transforming herself into 'science of 
religions,' 455. 


Other Characteristics 458 

^Esthetic elements in religion, 458. Contrast of Catholicism 
and Protestantism, 461. Sacrifice and Confession, 462. Prayer, 
463. Religion holds that spiritual work is really effected in 
prayer, 465. Three degrees of opinion as to what is effected, 
467. First degree, 468. Second degree, 472. Third degree, 
474. Automatisms, their frequency among religious leaders, 
478. Jewish cases, 479. Mohammed, 481. Joseph Smith, 482. 
Religion and the subconscious region in general, 483. 


Conclusions 485 

Summary of religious characteristics, 485. Men's religions 
need not be identical, 487. ' The science of religions ' can only 
suggest, not proclaim, a religious creed, 489. Is religion a ' sur- 
vival ' of primitive thought ? 490. Modern science rules out the 
concept of personality, 491. Anthropomorphism and belief in 
the personal chai-acterized pre-scientific thought, 493. Personal 
forces are real, in spite of this, 498. Scientific objects are ab- 
stractions, only individualized experiences are concrete, 498. 
Religion holds by the concrete, 500. Primarily religion is a 
biological reaction, 504. Its simplest terms are an uneasiness 
and a deliverance ; description of the deliverance, 508. Ques- 


tion of the reality of the higher power, 510. The author's 
hypotheses : 1. The subconscious self as intermediating be- 
tween nature and the higher region, 511 : 2. The higher 
region, or ' God,' 515 ; 3. lie produces real effects in nature, 

Postscript 520 

Philosophic position of the present work denned as piece- 
meal supernaturalism, 520. Criticism of universalistic super- 
naturalism, 521. Different principles must occasion differences 
in fact, 522. What differences in fact can God's existence oc- 
casion ? 523. The question of immortality, 524. Question of 
God's uniqueness and infinity : religious experience does not 
settle this question in the affirmative, 525. The pluralistic hypo- 
thesis is more conformed to common sense, 526. 

Index 529 



IT is with no small amount of trepidation that I take my 
place behind this desk, and face this learned audience. 
To us Americans, the experience of receiving instruction 
from the living voice, as well as from the books, of Euro- 
pean scholars, is very familiar. At my own University 
of Harvard, not a winter passes without its harvest, large 
or small, of lectures from Scottish, English, French, or 
German representatives of the science or literature of 
their respective countries whom we have either induced 
to cross the ocean to address us, or captured on the wing 
as they were visiting our land. It seems the natural 
thing for us to listen whilst the Europeans talk. The 
contrary habit, of talking whilst the Europeans listen, we 
have not yet acquired ; and in him who first makes the 
adventure it begets a certain sense of apology being due 
for so presumptuous an act. Particularly must this be the 
case on a soil as sacred to the American imagination as 
that of Edinburgh. The glories of the philosophic chair 
of this university were deeply impressed on my imagina- 
tion in boyhood. Professor Fraser's Essays in Philo- 
sophy, then just published, was the first philosophic 
book I ever looked into, and I well remember the awe- 
struck feeling I received from the account of Sir Wil- 


Ham Hamilton's class-room therein contained. Hamilton's 
own lectures were the first philosophic writings I ever 
forced myself to study, and after that I was immersed 
in Dugald Stewart and Thomas Brown. Such juvenile 
emotions of reverence never get outgrown ; and I confess 
that to find my humble self promoted from my native 
wilderness to be actually for the time an official here, and 
transmuted into a colleague of these illustrious names, 
carries with it a sense of dreamland quite as much as of 

But since I have received the honor of this appoint- 
ment I have felt that it would never do to decline. The 
academic career also has its heroic obligations, so I stand 
here without further deprecatory words. Let me say 
only this, that now that the current, here and at Aber- 
deen, has begun to run from west to east, I hope it may 
continue to do so. As the years go by, I hope that many 
of my countrymen may be asked to lecture in the Scot- 
tish universities, changing places with Scotsmen lectur- 
ing in the United States ; I hope that our people may 
become in all these higher matters even as one people ; 
and that the peculiar philosophic temperament, as well 
as the peculiar political temperament, that goes with our 
English speech may more and more pervade and influ- 
ence the world. 

As regards the manner in which I shall have to admin- 
ister this lectureship, I am neither a theologian, nor a 
scholar learned in the history of religions, nor an anthro- 
pologist. Pyschology is the only branch of learning in 
which I am particularly versed. To the psychologist the 
religious propensities of man must be at least as interest- 
ing as any other of the facts pertaining to his mental 
constitution. It would seem, therefore, that, as a psycho- 


logist, the natural thing for me would be to invite you 
to a descriptive survey of those religious propensities. 

If the inquiry be psychological, not religious institu- 
tions, but rather religious feelings and religious impulses 
must be its subject, and I must confine myself to those 
more developed subjective phenomena recorded in litera- 
ture produced by articulate and fully self-conscious men, 
in works of piety and autobiography. Interesting as the 
origins and early stages of a subject always are, yet when 
one seeks earnestly for its full significance, one must 
always look to its more completely evolved and perfect 
forms. It follows from this that the documents that will 
most concern us will be those of the men who were most 
accomplished in the religious life and best able to give 
an intelligible account of their ideas and motives. These 
men, of course, are either comparatively modern writers, 
or else such earlier ones as have become religious classics. 
The documents humains which we shall find most in- 
structive need not then be sought for in the haunts of 
special erudition they lie along the beaten highway ; 
and this circumstance, which flows so naturally from the 
character of our problem, suits admirably also your lec- 
turer's lack of special theological learning. I may take 
my citations, my sentences and paragraphs of personal 
confession, from books that most of you at some time 
will have had already in your hands, and yet this will 
be no detriment to the value of my conclusions. It is 
true that some more adventurous reader and investigator, 
lecturing here in future, may unearth from the shelves 
of libraries documents that will make a more delectable 
and curious entertainment to listen to than mine. Yet I 
doubt whether he will necessarily, by his control of so 
much more out-of-the-way material, get much closer to 
the essence of the matter in hand. 


The question, What are the religious propensities ? and 
the question, What is their philosophic significance ? are 
two entirely different orders of question from the logical 
point of view ; and, as a failure to recognize this fact 
distinctly may breed confusion, I wish to insist upon 
the point a little before we enter into the documents 
and materials to which I have referred. 

In recent books on logic, distinction is made between 
two orders of inquiry concerning anything. First, what 
is the nature of it? how did it come about? what is its 
constitution, origin, and history ? And second, What is 
its importance, meaning, or significance, now that it is 
once here? The answer to the one question is given 
in an existential judgment or proposition. The answer 
to the other is a proposition of value, what the Germans 
call a Werthurtheil, or what we may, if we like, denom- 
inate a spiritual judgment. Neither judgment can be 
deduced immediately from the other. They proceed 
from diverse intellectual preoccupations, and the mind 
combines them only by making them first separately, and 
then adding them together. 

In the matter of religions it is particularly easy to dis- 
tinguish the two orders of question. Every religious 
phenomenon has its history and its derivation from natu- 
ral antecedents. What is nowadays called the higher 
criticism of the Bible is only a study of the Bible from 
this existential point of view, neglected too much by the 
earlier church. Under just what biographic conditions 
did the sacred writers bring forth their various contribu- 
tions to the holy volume ? And what had they exactly 
in their several individual minds, when they delivered 
their utterances ? These are manifestly questions of his- 
torical fact, and one does not see how the answer to them 
can decide offhand the still further question : of what use 


should such a volume, with its manner of coming into 
existence so defined, be to us as a guide to life and a 
revelation ? To answer this other question we must have 
already in our mind some sort of a general theory as to 
what the peculiarities in a thing should be which give it 
value for purposes of revelation ; and this theory itself 
would be what I just called a spiritual judgment. Com- 
bining it with our existential judgment, we might indeed 
deduce another spiritual judgment as to the Bible's 
worth. Thus if our theory of revelation-value were to 
affirm that any book, to possess it, must have been com- 
posed automatically or not by the free caprice of the 
writer, or that it must exhibit no scientific and historic 
errors and express no local or personal passions, the Bible 
would probably fare ill at our hands. But if, on the 
other hand, our theory should allow that a book may 
well be a revelation in spite of errors and passions and 
deliberate human composition, if only it be a true record 
of the inner experiences of great-souled persons wrestling 
with the crises of their fate, then the verdict would be 
much more favorable. You see that the existential facts 
by themselves are insufficient for determining the value ; 
and the best adepts of the higher criticism accordingly 
never confound the existential with the spiritual problem. 
With the same conclusions of fact before them, some 
take one view, and some another, of the Bible's value as 
a revelation, according as their spiritual judgment as to 
the foundation of values differs. 

I make these general remarks about the two sorts of 
judgment, because there are many religious persons 
some of you now present, possibly, are among them 
who do not yet make a working use of the distinction, 
and who may therefore feel at first a little startled at 


the purely existential point of view from which in the 
following lectures the phenomena of religious experience 
must be considered. When I handle them biologically 
and psychologically as if they were mere curious facts 
of individual history, some of you may think it a degra- 
dation of so sublime a subject, and may even suspect 
me, until my purpose gets more fully expressed, of delib- 
erately seeking to discredit the religious side of life. 

Such a result is of course absolutely alien to my inten- 
tion ; and since such a prejudice on your part would seri- 
ously obstruct the due effect of much of what I have to 
relate, I will devote a few more words to the point. 

There can be no doubt that as a matter of fact a reli- 
gious life, exclusively pursued, does tend to make the per- 
son exceptional and eccentric. I speak not now of your 
ordinary religious believer, who follows the conventional 
observances of his country, whether it be Buddhist, Chris- 
tian, or Mohammedan. His religion has been made for 
him by others, communicated to him by tradition, deter- 
mined to fixed forms by imitation, and retained by habit. 
It would profit us little to study this second-hand reli- 
gious life. We must make search rather for the original 
experiences which were the pattern-setters to all this mass 
of suggested feeling and imitated conduct. These experi- 
ences we can only find in individuals for whom religion 
exists not as a dull habit, but as an acute fever rather. 
But such individuals are l geniuses ' in the religious line ; 
and like many other geniuses who have brought forth 
fruits effective enough for commemoration in the pages 
of biography, such religious geniuses have often shown 
symptoms of nervous instability. Even more perhaps 
than other kinds of genius, religious leaders have been 
subject to abnormal psychical visitations. Invariably 
they have been creatures of exalted emotional sensibility. 


<^ v w^^ 


Often they have led a discordant inner life, and had 
melancholy during a part of their career. They have 
known no measure, been liable to obsessions and fixed 
ideas ; and frequently they have fallen into trances, 
heard voices, seen visions, and presented all sorts of 
peculiarities which are ordinarily classed as pathological. 
Often, moreover, these pathological features in their 
career have helped to give them their religious authority 
and influence. 

If you ask for a concrete example, there can be no 
better one than is furnished by the person of George 
Fox. The Quaker religion which he founded is some- 
thing which it is impossible to overpraise. In a day of 
shams, it was a religion of veracity rooted in spiritual 
inwardness, and a return to something more like the 
original gospel truth than men had ever known in Eng- 
land. So far as our Christian sects to-day are evolving 
into liberality, they are simply reverting in essence to the 
position which Fox and the early Quakers so long ago 
assumed. No one can pretend for a moment that in 
point of spiritual sagacity and capacity, Fox's mind was 
unsound. Every one who confronted him personally, 
from Oliver Cromwell down to county magistrates and 
jailers, seems to have acknowledged his superior power. 
Yet from the point of view of his nervous constitution, 
Fox was a psychopath or detraque of the deepest dye. 
His Journal abounds in entries of this sort : 

" As I was walking with several friends, I lifted up my head, 
and saw three steeple-house spires, and they struck at my 
life. I asked them what place that was? They said, Lichfield. 
Immediately the word of the Lord came to me, that I must go 
thither. Being come to the house we were going to, I wished 
the friends to walk into the house, saying nothing to them of 
whither I was to go. As soon as they were gone I stept away, 


and went by my eye over hedge and ditch till I came within 
a mile of Lichfield ; where, in a great field, shepherds were 
keeping their sheep. Then was I commanded by the Lord to 
pull off my shoes. I stood still, for it was winter : but the 
word of the Lord was like a fire in me. So I put off my shoes, 
and left them with the shepherds ; and the poor shepherds 
trembled, and were astonished. Then I walked on about a 
mile, and as soon as I was got within the city, the word of the 
Lord came to me again, saying : Cry, ' Wo to the bloody city 
of Lichfield ! ' So I went up and down the streets, crying 
with a loud voice, Wo to the bloody city of Lichfield ! It be- 
ing market day, I went into the market-place, and to and fro in 
the several parts of it, and made stands, crying as before, Wo 
to the bloody city of Lichfield ! And no one laid hands on me. 
As I went thus crying through the streets, there seemed to me 
to be a channel of blood running down the streets, and the 
market-place appeared like a pool of blood. When I had de- 
clared what was upon me, and felt myself clear, I went out of 
the town in peace ; and returning to the shepherds gave them 
some money, and took my shoes of them again. But the fire 
of the Lord was so on my feet, and all over me, that I did not 
matter to put on my shoes again, and was at a stand whether I 
should or no, till I felt freedom from the Lord so to do : then, 
after I had washed my feet, I put on my shoes again. After 
this a deep consideration came upon me, for what reason I 
should be sent to cry against that city, and call it The bloody 
city ! For though the parliament had the minister one while, 
and the king another, and much blood had been shed in the 
town during the wars between them, yet there was no more 
than had befallen many other places. But afterwards I came 
to understand, that in the Emperor Diocletian's time a thousand 
Christians were martyr'd in Lichfield. So I was to go, with- 
out my shoes, through the channel of their blood, and into the 
pool of their blood in the market-place, that I might raise up 
the memorial of the blood of those martyrs, which had been 
shed above a thousand years before, and lay cold in their streets. 
So the sense of this blood was upon me, and I obeyed the word 
of the Lord." 


Bent as we are on studying religion's existential condi- 
tions, we cannot possibly ignore these pathological aspects 
of the subject. We must describe and name them just 
as if they occurred in non-religious men. It is true that 
we instinctively recoil from seeing an object to which 
our emotions and affections are committed handled by 
the intellect as any other object is handled. The first 
thing the intellect does with an object is to class it along 
with something else. But any object that is infinitely 
important to us and awakens our devotion feels to us 
also as if it must be sid generis and unique. Probably a 
crab would be filled with a sense of personal outrage if 
it could hear us class it without ado or apology as a 
crustacean, and thus dispose of it. " I am no such 
thing," it would say ; "lam myself, myself alone." 

The next thing the intellect does is to lay bare the 
causes in which the thing originates. Spinoza says : " I 
will analyze the actions and appetites of men as if it 
were a question of lines, of planes, and of solids." And 
elsewhere he remarks that he will consider our passions 
and their properties with the same eye with which he 
looks on all other natural things, since the consequences 
of our affections flow from their nature with the same 
necessity as it results from the nature of a triangle that 
its three angles should be equal to two right angles. 
Similarly M. Taine, in the introduction to his history of 
English literature, has written : " Whether facts be moral 
or physical, it makes no matter. They always have their 
causes. There are causes for ambition, courage, veracity, 
just as there are for digestion, muscular movement, ani- 
mal heat. Vice and virtue are products like vitriol and 
sugar." When we read such proclamations of the intel- 
lect bent on showing the existential conditions of abso- 

V- t\>j^jufc *- *ju*j\lL -V"" 


lately everything, we feel quite apart from our legiti- 
mate impatience at the somewhat ridiculous swagger of 
the program, in view of what the authors are actually 
able to perform menaced and negated in the springs 
of our innermost life. Such cold-blooded assimilations 
threaten, we think, to undo our soul's vital secrets, as 
if the same breath which should succeed in explaining 
their origin would simultaneously explain away their sig- 
nificance, and make them appear of no more precious- 
ness, either, than the useful groceries of which M. Taine 

Perhaps the commonest expression of this assumption 
that spiritual value is undone if lowly origin be asserted 
is seen in those comments which unsentimental people 
so often pass on their more sentimental acquaintances. 
Alfred believes in immortality so strongly because his 
temperament is so emotional. Fanny's extraordinary 
conscientiousness is merely a matter of over-instigated 
nerves. William's melancholy about the universe is due 
to bad digestion probably his liver is torpid. Eliza's 
delight in her church is a symptom of her hysterical 
constitution. Peter would be less troubled about his soul 
if he would take more exercise in the open air, etc. 
A more fully developed example of the same kind of 
reasoning is the fashion, quite common nowadays among 
certain writers, of criticising the religious emotions by 
showing a connection between them and the sexual life. 
Conversion is a crisis of puberty and adolescence. The 
macerations of saints, and the devotion of missionaries, 
are only instances of the parental instinct of self-sacrifice 
gone astray. For the hysterical nun, starving for natural 
life, Christ is but an imaginary substitute for a more 
earthly object of affection. And the like. 1 

1 As with many ideas that float in the air of one's time, this notion 

><yow - aV>uvA*[l **** ** *\ ov.^w 


We are surely all familiar in a general way with this 
method of discrediting states of mind for which we have 

shrinks from dogmatic general statement and expresses itself only partially 
and by innuendo. It seems to me that few conceptions are less instructive 
than this re-iuterpretation of religion as perverted sexuality. It reminds 
one, so crudely is it often employed, of the famous Catholic taunt, that the 
Reformation may be best understood by remembering that its fons et origo 
was Luther's wish to marry a nun : the effects are infinitely wider than 
the alleged causes, and for the most part opposite in nature. It is true 
that in the vast collection of religious phenomena, some are undisguisedly 
amatory e. g., sex-deities and obscene rites in polytheism, and ecstatic 
feelings of union with the Saviour in a few Christian mystics. But then 
why not equally call religion an aberration of the digestive function, and 
prove one's point by the worship of Bacchus and Ceres, or by the ecstatic 
feelings of some other saints about the Eucharist ? Religious language 
clothes itself in such poor symbols as our life affords, and the whole organ- 
ism gives overtones of comment whenever the mind is strongly stirred to 
expression. Language drawn from eating and drinking is probably as com- 
mon in religious literature as is language drawn from the sexual life. We 
' hunger and thirst ' after righteousness ; we ' find the Lord a sweet savor ; ' 
we ' taste and see that he is good.' ' Spiritual milk for American babes, 
drawn from the breasts of both testaments,' is a sub-title of the once famous 
New England Primer, and Christian devotional literature indeed quite floats 
in milk, thought of from the point of view, not of the mother, but of the 
greedy babe. 

Saint Frangois de Sales, for instance, thus describes the ' orison of 
quietude ' : "In this state the soul is like a little child still at the breast, 
whose mother, to caress him whilst he is still in her arms, makes her milk 
distill into his mouth without his even moving his lips. So it is here. . . . 
Our Lord desires that our will should be satisfied with sucking the milk 
which His Majesty pours into our mouth, and that we should relish the 
sweetness without even knowing that it cometh from the Lord." And 
again : "Consider the little infants, united and joined to the breasts of 
their nursing mothers, you will see that from time to time they press them- 
selves closer by little starts to which the pleasure of sucking prompts them. 
Even so, during its orison, the heart united to its God oftentimes makes 
attempts at closer union by movements during which it presses closer upon 
the divine sweetness." Chemin de la Perfection, ch. xxxi. ; Amour de Dieu, 
vii. ch. i. 

In fact, one might almost as well interpret religion as a perversion of 
the respiratory function. The Bible is full of the language of respiratory 
oppression : " Hide not thine ear at my breathing ; my groaning is not hid 
from thee ; my heart panteth, my strength faileth me ; my bones are hot 
with my roaring all the night long ; as the hart panteth after the water- 


an antipathy. We all use it to some degree in criticising 
persons whose states of mind we regard as overstrained. 
But when other people criticise our own more exalted 
soul-flights by calling them ' nothing but ' expressions 
of our organic disposition, we feel outraged and hurt, for 
we know that, whatever be our organism's peculiarities, 
our mental states have their substantive value as revela- 

brooks, so my soul panteth after thee, O my God." God's Breath in 
Man is the title of the chief work of our best known American mystic 
(Thomas Lake Harris) ; and in certain non-Christian countries the founda- 
tion of all religious discipline consists in regulation of the inspiration and 

These arguments are as good as much of the reasoning one hears in favor 
of the sexual theory. But the champions of the latter will then say that 
their chief argument has no analogue elsewhere. The two main phenomena 
of religion, namely, melancholy and conversion, they will say, are essentially 
phenomena of adolescence, and therefore synchronous with the develop- 
ment of sexual life. To which the retort again is easy. Even were the 
asserted synchrony unrestrictedly true as a fact (which it is not), it is not 
only the sexual life, but the entire higher mental life which awakens during 
adolescence. One migbt then as well set up the thesis that the interest 
in mechanics, physics, chemistry, logic, philosophy, and sociology, which 
springs up during adolescent years along with that in poetry and religion, 
is also a perversion of the sexual instinct : but that would be too absurd. 
Moreover, if the argument from synchrony is to decide, what is to be done 
with the fact that the religious age par excellence would seem to be old age, 
when the uproar of the sexual life is past ? 

The plain truth is that to interpret religion one must in the end look at 
the immediate content of the religious consciousness. The moment one 
does this, one sees how wholly disconnected it is in the main from the con- 
tent of the sexual consciousness. Everything about the two things differs, 
objects, moods, faculties concerned, and acts impelled to. Any general 
assimilation is simply impossible : what we find most often is complete hos- 
tility and contrast. If now the defenders of the sex-theory say that this 
makes no difference to their thesis ; that without the chemical contributions 
which the sex-organs make to the blood, the brain would not be nourished 
so as to carry on religious activities, this final proposition may be true or 
not true ; but at any rate it has become profoundly uninstructive : we can 
deduce no consequences from it which help us to interpret religion's mean- 
ing or value. In this sense the religious life depends just as much upon 
the spleen, the pancreas, and the kidneys as on the sexual apparatus, and 
the whole theory has lost its point in evaporating into a vague general 
assertion of the dependence, somehow, of the mind upon the body. 


tions of the living truth ; and we wish that all this medi- 
cal materialism could be made to hold its tongue. 

Medical materialism seems indeed a good appellation 
for the too simple-minded system of thought which we 
are considering. Medical materialism finishes up Saint 
Paul by calling his vision on the road to Damascus a 
discharging lesion of the occipital cortex, he being an 
epileptic. It snuffs out Saint Teresa as an hysteric, Saint 
Francis of Assisi as an hereditary degenerate. George 
Fox's discontent with the shams of his age, and his pining 
for spiritual veracity, it treats as a symptom of a disor- 
dered colon. Carlyle's organ-tones of misery it accounts 
for by a gastro-duodenal catarrh. All such mental over- 
tensions, it says, are, when you come to the bottom of 
the matter, mere affairs of diathesis (auto-intoxications 
most probably), due to the perverted action of various 
glands which physiology will yet discover. 

And medical materialism then thinks that the spiritual 
authority of all such personages is successfully under- 
mined. 1 

Let us ourselves look at the matter in the largest 
possible way. Modern psychology, finding definite psy- 
cho-physical connections to hold good, assumes as a con- 
venient hypothesis that the dependence of mental states 
upon bodily conditions must be thorough-going and com- 
plete. If we adopt the assumption, then of course what 
medical materialism insists on must be true in a general 
way, if not in every detail : Saint Paul certainly had 
once an epileptoid, if not an epileptic seizure ; George Fox 
was an hereditary degenerate ; Carlyle was undoubtedly 
auto-intoxicated by some organ or other, no matter which, 

1 For a first-rate example of medical-materialist reasoning, see an article 
on ' les Varie'te's du Type de'vot,' by Dr. Binet-Sangle*, in the Revue de 
l'Hypnotisme, xiv. 161. 


and the rest. But now, I ask you, how can such an 
existential account of facts of mental history decide in 
one way or another upon their spiritual significance ? 
According to the general postulate of psychology just 
referred to, there is not a single one of our states of 
mind, high or low, healthy or morbid, that has not some 
organic process as its condition. Scientific theories are 
organically conditioned just as much as religious emotions 
are ; and if we only knew the facts intimately enough, 
we should doubtless see ' the liver ' determining the dicta 
of the sturdy atheist as decisively as it does that of the 
Methodist under conviction anxious about his soul. 
When it alters in one way the blood that percolates it, 
we get the methodist, when in another way, we get the 
atheist form of mind. So of all our raptures and our 
drynesses, our longings and pantings, our questions and 
beliefs. They are equally organically founded, be they 
of religious or of non-religious content. 

To plead the organic causation of a religious state of 
mind, then, in refutation of its claim to possess superior 
spiritual value, is quite illogical and arbitrary, unless one 
have already worked out in advance some psycho-physical 
theory connecting spiritual values in general with deter- 
minate sorts of physiological change. Otherwise none of 
our thoughts and feelings, not even our scientific doc- 
trines, not even our e?is-beliefs, could retain any value as 
revelations of the truth, for every one of them without 
exception flows from the state of their possessor's body 
at the time. 

It is needless to say that medical materialism draws in 
point of fact no such sweeping skeptical conclusion. It 
is sure, just as every simple man is sure, that some states 
of mind are inwardly superior to others, and reveal to us 
more truth, and in this it simply makes use of an ordinary 


spiritual judgment. It has no physiological theory of the 
production of these its favorite states, by which it may 
accredit them; and its attempt to discredit the states 
which it dislikes, by vaguely associating them with nerves 
and liver, and connecting them with names connoting 
bodily affliction, is altogether illogical and inconsistent. 

Let us play fair in this whole matter, and be quite 
candid with ourselves and with the facts. When we 
think certain states of mind superior to others, is it ever 
because of what we know concerning- their organic ante- 
cedents ? No ! it is always for two entirely different rea- 
sons. It is either because we take an immediate delight 
in them ; or else it is because we believe them to bring 
us good consequential fruits for life. When we speak 
disparagingly of ' feverish fancies,' surely the fever-pro- 
cess as such is not the ground of our disesteem for 
aught we know to the contrary, 103 or 104 Fahrenheit 
might be a much more favorable temperature for truths 
to germinate and sprout in, than the more ordinary 
blood-heat of 97 or 98 degrees. It is either the disagree- 
ableness itself of the fancies, or their inability to bear the 
criticisms of the convalescent hour. When we praise the 
thoughts which health brings, health's peculiar chemical 
metabolisms have nothing to do with determining our 
judgment. We know in fact almost nothing about these 
metabolisms. It is the character of inner happiness in 
the thoughts which stamps them as good, or else their 
consistency with our other opinions and their serviceability 
for our needs, which make them pass for true in our 

Now the more intrinsic and the more remote of these 
criteria do not always hang together. Inner happiness 
and serviceability do not always agree. What immedi- 
ately feels most ' good ' is not always most ' true,' when 

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measured by the verdict of the rest of experience. The 
difference between Philip drunk and Philip sober is 
the classic instance in corroboration. If merely ' feeling 
good ' could decide, drunkenness would be the supremely 
valid human experience. But its revelations, however 
acutely satisfying at the moment, are inserted into an 
environment which refuses to bear them out for any 
length of time. The consequence of this discrepancy of 
the two criteria is the uncertainty which still prevails 
over so many of our spiritual judgments. There are 
moments of sentimental and mystical experience we 
shall hereafter hear much of them that carry an enor- 
mous sense of inner authority and illumination with them 
when they come. But they come seldom, and they do 
not come to every one ; and the rest of life makes either 
no connection with them, or tends to contradict them 
more than it confirms them. Some persons follow more 
the voice of the moment in these cases, some prefer to 
be guided by the average results. Hence the sad dis- 
cordancy of so many of the spiritual judgments of human 
beings ; a discordancy which will be brought home to us 
acutely enough before these lectures end. 

It is, however, a discordancy that can never be resolved 
by any merely medical test. A good example of the im- 
possibility of holding strictly to the medical tests is seen 
in the theory of the pathological causation of genius pro- 
mulgated by recent authors. "Genius," said Dr. Moreau, 
" is but one of the many branches of the neuropathic 
tree." " Genius," says Dr. Lombroso, " is a symptom of 
hereditary degeneration of the epileptoid variety, and is 
allied to moral insanity." " Whenever a man's life," 
writes Mr. Nisbet, " is at once sufficiently illustrious and 
recorded with sufficient fullness to be a subject of profit- 


able study, be inevitably falls into the morbid category. 
. . . And it is worthy of remark that, as a rule, the 
greater the genius, the greater the unsoundness." 1 

Now do these authors, after having succeeded in estab- 
lishing to their own satisfaction that the works of genius 
are fruits of disease, consistently proceed thereupon to 
impugn the value of the fruits ? Do they deduce a new 
spiritual judgment from their new doctrine of existential 
conditions ? Do they frankly forbid us to admire the pro- 
ductions of genius from now onwards? and say outright 
that no neuropath can ever be a revealer of new truth ? 

No ! their immediate spiritual instincts are too strong 
for them here, and hold their own against inferences 
which, in mere love of logical consistency, medical mate- 
rialism ought to be only too glad to draw. One disciple 
of the school, indeed, has striven to impugn the value of 
works of genius in a wholesale way (such works of con- 
temporary art, namely, as he himself is unable to enjoy, 
and they are many) by using medical arguments. 2 But 
for the most part the masterpieces are left unchallenged ; 
and the medical line of attack either confines itself to 
such secular productions as every one admits to be intrin- 
sically eccentric, or else addresses itself exclusively to 
religious manifestations. And then it is because the 
religious manifestations have been already condemned 
because the critic dislikes them on internal or spiritual 

In the natural sciences and industrial arts it never 
occurs to any one to try to refute opinions by show- 
ing up their author's neurotic constitution. Opinions 
here are invariably tested by logic and by experiment, no 

1 J. F. Nisbet: The Insanity of Genius, 3d ed., London, 1893, pp. xvi, 

2 Max Nordau, in his bulky book entitled Degeneration. 


matter what may be their author's neurological type. It 
should be no otherwise with religious opinions. Their 
value can only be ascertained by spiritual judgments 
directly passed upon them, judgments based on our own 
immediate feeling primarily ; and secondarily on what we 
can ascertain of their experiential relations to our moral 
needs and to the rest of what we hold as true. 

Immediate luminousness, in shovt, philosophical rea- 
sonableness, and moral helpfulness are the only avail- 
able criteria. Saint Teresa might have had the nervous 
system of the placidest cow, and it would not now save 
her theology, if the trial of the theology by these other 
tests should show it to be contemptible. And conversely 
if her theology can stand these other tests, it will make 
no difference how hysterical or nervously off her balance 
Saint Teresa may have been when she was with us here 

You see that at bottom we are thrown back upon the 
general principles by which the empirical philosophy has 
always contended that we must be guided in our search 
for truth. Dogmatic philosophies have sought for tests 
for truth which might dispense us from appealing to the 
future. Some direct mark, by noting which we can be 
protected immediately and absolutely, now and forever, 
against all mistake such has been the darling dream 
of philosophic dogmatists. It is clear that the origin of 
the truth would be an admirable criterion of this sort, if 
only the various origins could be discriminated from one 
another from this point of view, and the history of dog- 
matic opinion shows that origin has always been a favorite 
test. Origin in immediate intuition ; origin in pontifical 
authority ; origin in supernatural revelation, as by vision, 
hearing, or unaccountable impression ; origin in direct 

(V k_ a *'-* ^" v< " I 

\ **y - y* u y 

U V\ 


possession by a higher spirit, expressing itself in pro- 
phecy and warning ; origin in automatic utterance gen- 
erally, these origins have been stock warrants for the 
truth of one opinion after another which we find repre- 
sented in religious history. The medical materialists are 
therefore only so many belated dogmatists, neatly turning 
the tables on their predecessors by using the criterion of 
origin in a destructive instead of an accreditive way. 

They are effective with their talk of pathological 
origin only so long as supernatural origin is pleaded by 
the other side, and nothing but the argument from 
origin is under discussion. But the argument from ori- 
gin has seldom been used alone, for it is too obviously 
insufficient. Dr. Maudsley is perhaps the cleverest of 
the rebutters of supernatural religion on grounds of ori- 
gin. Yet he finds himself forced to write : 

" What right have we to believe Nature under any 
obligation to do her work by means of complete minds 
only ? She may find an incomplete mind a more suit- 
able instrument for a particular purpose. It is the work 
that is done, and the quality in the worker by which it 
was done, that is alone of moment ; and it may be no 
great matter from a cosmical standpoint, if in other 
qualities of character he was singularly defective if 
indeed he were hypocrite, adulterer, eccentric, or lunatic. 
. . . Home we come again, then, to the old and last resort 
of certitude, namely the common assent of mankind, 
or of the competent by instruction and training among 
mankind." 1 

In other words, not its origin, but the way in which it 
works on the whole, is Dr. Maudsley's final test of a 
belief. This is our own empiricist criterion ; and this cri- 

1 H. Maudsley : Natural Causes and Supernatural Seemings, 1886, 
pp. 257, 256. 


terion the stoutest insisters on supernatural origin have also 
been forced to use in the end. Among the visions and 
messages some have always been too patently silly, among 
the trances and convulsive seizures some have been too 
fruitless for conduct and character, to pass themselves 
off as significant, still less as divine. In the history 
of Christian mysticism the problem how to discriminate 
between such messages and experiences as were really 
divine miracles, and such others as the demon in his 
malice was able to counterfeit, thus making the religious 
person twofold more the child of hell he was before, has 
always been a difficult one to solve, needing all the saga- 
city and experience of the best directors of conscience. 
In the end it had to come to our empiricist criterion : By 
their fruits ye shall know them, not by their roots. 
Jonathan Edwards's Treatise on Religious Affections is 
an elaborate working out of this thesis. The roots of 
a man's virtue are inaccessible to us. No appearances 
whatever are infallible proofs of grace. Our practice is 
the only sure evidence, even to ourselves, that we are 
genuinely Christians. 

" In forming a judgment of ourselves now," Edwards writes, 
" we should certainly adopt that evidence which our supreme 
Judge will chiefly make use of when we come to stand before 
him at the last day. . . . There is not one grace of the Spirit 
of God, of the existence of which, in any professor of religion, 
Christian practice is not the most decisive evidence. . . . The 
degree in which our experience is productive of practice shows 
the degree in which our experience is spiritual and divine." 

Catholic writers are equally emphatic. The good dis- 
positions which a vision, or voice, or other apparent 
heavenly favor leave behind them are the only marks by 
which we may be sure they are not possible deceptions of 
the tempter. Says Saint Teresa : 


" Like imperfect sleep which, instead of giving more strength 
to the head, doth but leave it the more exhausted, the result of 
mere operations of the imagination is but to weaken the soul. 
Instead of nourishment and energy she reaps only lassitude and 
disgust : whereas a genuine heavenly vision yields to her a har- 
vest of ineffable spiritual riches, and an admirable renewal of 
bodily strength. I alleged these reasons to those who so often 
accused my visions of being the work of the enemy of mankind 
and the sport of my imagination. ... I showed them the jew- 
els which the divine hand had left with me : they were my 
actual dispositions. All those who knew me saw that I was 
changed ; my confessor bore witness to the fact ; this improve- 
ment, palpable in all respects, far from being hidden, was bril- 
liantly evident to all men. As for myself, it was impossible to 
believe that if the demon were its author, he could have used, 
in order to lose me and lead me to hell, an expedient so con- 
trary to his own interests as that of uprooting my vices, and 
filling me with masculine courage and other virtues instead, for 
I saw clearly that a single one of these visions was enough to 
enrich me with all that wealth." 1 

I fear I may have made a longer excursus than was 
necessary, and that fewer words would have dispelled the 
uneasiness which may have arisen among some of you as 
I announced my pathological programme. At any rate 
you must all be ready now to judge the religious life by 
its results exclusively, and I shall assume that the buga- 
boo of morbid origin will scandalize your piety no more. 

Still, you may ask me, if its results are to be the ground 
of our final spiritual estimate of a religious phenomenon, 
why threaten us at all with so much existential study of 
its conditions ? Why not simply leave pathological ques- 
tions out? 

To this I reply in two ways : First, I say, irrepressible 
curiosity imperiously leads one on ; and I say, secondly, 

1 Autobiography, ch. xxviii. 


that it always leads to a better understanding of a thing's 
significance to consider its exaggerations and perversions, 
its equivalents and substitutes and nearest relatives else- 
where. Not that we may thereby swamp the thing in 
the wholesale condemnation which we pass on its inferior 
congeners, but rather that we may by contrast ascertain 
the more precisely in what its merits consist, by learning 
at the same time to what particular dangers of corruption 
it may also be exposed. 

Insane conditions have this advantage, that they isolate 
special factors of the mental life, and enable us to inspect 
them unmasked by their more usual surroundings. They 
play the part in mental anatomy which the scalpel and 
the microscope play in the anatomy of the body. To 
understand a thing rightly we need to see it both out of 
its environment and in it, and to have acquaintance with 
the whole range of its variations. The study of halluci- 
nations has in this way been for psychologists the key 
to their comprehension of normal sensation, that of illu- 
sions has been the key to the right comprehension of per- 
ception. Morbid impulses and imperative conceptions, 
' fixed ideas/ so called, have thrown a flood of light on 
the psychology of the normal will ; and obsessions and 
delusions have performed the same service for that of 
the normal faculty of belief. 

Similarly, the nature of genius has been illuminated 
by the attempts, of which I already made mention, to 
class it with psychopathical phenomena. Borderland 
insanity, crankiness, insane temperament, loss of mental 
balance, psychopathic degeneration (to use a few of the 
many synonyms by which it has been called), has certain 
peculiarities and liabilities which, when combined with a 
superior quality of intellect in an individual, make it 
more probable that he will make his mark and affect his 

ev vv v v. 


age, than if his temperament were less neurotic. There 
is of course no special affinity between crankiness as such 
and superior intellect, 1 for most psychopaths have feeble 
intellects, and superior intellects more commonly have 
normal nervous systems. But the psychopathic tempera- 
ment, whatever be the intellect with which it finds itself 
paired, often brings with it ardor and excitability of 
character. The cranky person has extraordinary emo- 
tional susceptibility. He is liable to fixed ideas and 
obsessions. His conceptions tend to pass immediately 
into belief and action ; and when he gets a new idea, he 
has no rest till he proclaims it, or in some way ' works it 
off.' " What shall I think of it ? " a common person 
says to himself about a vexed question ; but in a 
' cranky ' mind " What must I do about it ? " is the form 
the question tends to take. In the autobiography of that 
high-souled woman, Mrs. Annie Besant, I read the follow- 
ing passage : " Plenty of people wish well to any good 
cause, but very few care to exert themselves to help it, 
and still fewer will risk anything in its support. ' Some 
one ought to do it, but why should I ? ' is the ever 
reechoed phrase of weak-kneed amiability. * Some one 
ought to do it, so why not I ? ' is the cry of some ear- 
nest servant of man, eagerly forward springing to face 
some perilous duty. Between these two sentences lie 
whole centuries of moral evolution." True enough ! 
and between these two sentences lie also the different 
destinies of the ordinary sluggard and the psychopathic 
man. Thus, when a superior intellect and a psychopathic 
temperament coalesce as in the endless permutations 
and combinations of human faculty, they are bound to 
coalesce often enough in the same individual, we have 

1 Superior intellect, as Professor Bain has admirably shown, seems to 
consist in nothing so much as in a large development of the faculty of asso- 
ciation by similarity. 


the best possible condition for the kind of effective 
genius that gets into the biographical dictionaries. Such 
men do not remain mere critics and understanders with 
their intellect. Their ideas possess them, they inflict 
them, for better or worse, upon their companions or 
their age. It is they who get counted when Messrs Lom- 
broso, Nisbet, and others invoke statistics to defend their 

To pass now to religious phenomena, take the mel- 
ancholy which, as we shall see, constitutes an essential 
moment in every complete religious evolution. Take the 
happiness which achieved religious belief confers. Take 
the trance-like states of insight into truth which all reli- 
gious mystics report. 1 These are each and all of them 
special cases of kinds of human experience of much wider 
scope. Religious melancholy, whatever peculiarities it 
may have qua religious, is at any rate melancholy. Reli- 
gious happiness is happiness. Religious trance is trance. 
And the moment we renounce the absurd notion that a 
thing is exploded away as soon as it is classed with 
others, or its origin is shown ; the moment we agree to 
stand by experimental results and inner quality, in judg- 
ing of values, who does not see that we are likely to 
ascertain the distinctive significance of religious melan- 
choly and happiness, or of religious trances, far better 
by comparing them as conscientiously as we can with 
other varieties of melancholy, happiness, and trance, than 
by refusing to consider their place in any more general 
series, and treating them as if they were outside of 
nature's order altogether ? 

I hope that the course of these lectures will confirm 
us in this supposition. As regards the psychopathic ori- 
gin of so many religious phenomena, that would not be 

1 I may refer to a criticism of the insanity theory of genius in the Psycho- 
logical Review, ii. 287 (1895). 


in the least surprising or disconcerting, even were such 
phenomena certified from on high to be the most pre- 
cious of human experiences. No one organism can 
possibly yield to its owner the whole body of truth. 
Few of us are not in some way infirm, or even diseased ; 
and our very infirmities help us unexpectedly. In the 
psychopathic temperament we have the emotionality 
which is the sine qua non of moral perception ; we have 
the intensity and tendency to emphasis which are the 
essence of practical moral vigor ; and we have the love 
of metaphysics and mysticism which carry one's interests 
beyond the surface of the sensible world. What, then, 
is more natural than that this temperament should intro- 
duce one to regions of religious truth, to corners of the 
universe, which your robust Philistine type of nervous 
system, forever offering its biceps to be felt, thumping 
its breast, and thanking Heaven that it has n't a single 
morbid fibre in its composition, would be sure to hide 
forever from its self-satisfied possessors? 

If there were such a thing as inspiration from a higher 
realm, it might well be that the neurotic temperament 
would furnish the chief condition of the requisite recep- 
tivity. And having said thus much, I think that I may 
let the matter of religion and neuroticism drop. 

The mass of collateral phenomena, morbid or healthy, 
with which the various religious phenomena must be 
compared in order to understand them better, forms 
what in the slang of pedagogics is termed 'the apper- 
ceiving mass ' by which we comprehend them. The 
only novelty that I can imagine this course of lectures 
to possess lies in the breadth of the apperceiving mass. 
I may succeed in discussing religious experiences in a 
wider context than has been usual in university courses. 

P -cV (n\Viv\. 5 



MOST books on the philosophy of religion try to 
begin with a precise definition of what its essence 
consists of. Some of these would-be definitions may pos- 
sibly come before us in later portions of this course, and 
I shall not be pedantic enough to enumerate any of them 
to you now. Meanwhile the very fact that they are so 
many and so different from one another is enough to 
prove that the word ' religion ' cannot stand for any single 
principle or essence, but is rather a collective name. The 
theorizing mind tends always to the over-simplification of 
its materials. This is the root of all that absolutism and 
one-sided dogmatism by which both philosophy and reli- 
gion have been infested. Let us not fall immediately into 
a one-sided view of our subject, but let us rather admit 
freely at the outset that we may very likely find no one 
essence, but many characters which may alternately be 
equally important in religion. If we should inquire for 
the essence of ' government,' for example, one man might 
tell us it was authority, another submission, another 
police, another an army, another an assembly, another 
a system of laws ; yet all the while it would be true 
that no concrete government can exist without all these 
things, one of which is more important at one moment 
and others at another. The man who knows govern- 
ments most completely is he who troubles himself least 
about a definition which shall give their essence. Enjoy- 
ing an intimate acquaintance with all their particularities 



9 '.'*', 


in turn, he would naturally regard an abstract conception 
in which these were unified as a thing more misleading 
than enlightening. And why may not religion be a con- 
ception equally complex ? * 

Consider also the * religious sentiment ' which we see 
referred to in so many books, as if it were a single sort 
of mental entity. 

In the psychologies and in the philosophies of religion, 
we find the authors attempting to specify just what en- 
tity it is. One man allies it to the feeling of dependence ; 
one makes it a derivative from fear ; others connect it with 
the sexual life ; others still identify it with the feeling of 
the infinite ; and so on. Such different ways of conceiv- 
ing it ought of themselves to arouse doubt as to whether 
it possibly can be one specific thing ; and the moment we 
are willing to treat the term ' religious sentiment ' as a 
collective name for the many sentiments which religious 
objects may arouse in alternation, we see that it probably 
contains nothing whatever of a psychologically specific 
nature. There is religious fear, religious love, religious 
awe, religious joy, and so forth. But religious love is 
only man's natural emotion of love directed to a religious 
object ; religious fear is only the ordinary fear of com- 
merce, so to speak, the common quaking of the human 
breast, in so far as the notion of divine retribution may 
arouse it ; religious awe is the same organic thrill which 
we feel in a forest at twilight, or in a mountain gorge ; 
only this time it comes over us at the thought of our 
supernatural relations ; and similarly of all the various 
sentiments which may be called into play in the lives of 

1 I can do no better here than refer my readers to the extended and ad- 
mirable remarks on the futility of all these definitions of religion, in an 
article by Professor Leuba, published in the Monist for January, 1901, after 
my own text was written. 


religious persons. As concrete states of mind, made up 
of a feeling plus a specific sort of object, religious emo- 
tions of course are psychic entities distinguishable from 
other concrete emotions ; but there is no ground for 
assuming a simple abstract ' religious emotion ' to exist 
as a distinct elementary mental affection by itself, present 
in every religious experience without exception. 

As there thus seems to be no one elementary religious 
emotion, but only a common storehouse of emotions upon 
which religious objects may draw, so there might con- 
ceivably also prove to be no one specific and essential 
kind of religious object, and no one specific and essential 
kind of religious act. 

The field of religion being as wide as this, it is mani- 
festly impossible that I should pretend to cover it. My 
lectures must be limited to a fraction of the subject. 
And, although it would indeed be foolish to set up an 
abstract definition of religion's essence, and then proceed 
to defend that definition against all comers, yet this need 
not prevent me from taking my own narrow view of what 
religion shall consist in for the purpose of these lectures, 
or, out of the many meanings of the word, from choos- 
ing the one meaning in which I wish to interest you par- 
ticularly, and proclaiming arbitrarily that when I say 
' religion' I mean that. This, in fact, is what I must do, 
and I will now preliminarily seek to mark out the field I 

One way to mark it out easily is to say what aspects 
of the subject we leave out. At the outset we are struck 
by one great partition which divides the religious field. 
On the one side of it lies institutional, on the other per- 
sonal religion. As M. P. Sabatier says, one branch of 
religion keeps the divinity, another keeps man most in 

\\c\vi r ow - w*V* VwuV*va x-~y-ry(** 


view. Worship and sacrifice, procedures for working on 
the dispositions o the deity, theology and ceremony and 
ecclesiastical organization, are the essentials of religion 
in the institutional branch. Were we to limit our view 
to it, we should have to define religion as an external 
art, the art of winning the favor of the gods. In the 
more personal branch of religion it is on the contrary the 
inner dispositions of man himself which form the centre 
of interest, his conscience, his deserts, his helplessness, 
his incompleteness. And although the favor of the God, 
as forfeited or gained, is still an essential feature of the 
story, and theology plays a vital part therein, yet the acts 
to which this sort of religion prompts are personal not 
ritual acts, the individual transacts the business by him- 
self alone, and the ecclesiastical organization, with its 
priests and sacraments and other go-betweens, sinks to 
an altogether secondary place. The relation goes direct 
from heart to heart, from soul to soul, between man and 
his maker. 

Now in these lectures I propose to ignore the institu- 
tional branch entirely, to say nothing of the ecclesiastical 
organization, to consider as little as possible the system- 
atic theology and the ideas about the gods themselves, 
and to confine myself as far as I can to personal religion 
pure and simple. To some of you personal religion, 
thus nakedly considered, will no doubt seem too incom- 
plete a thing to wear the general name. " It is a part 
of religion," you will say, " but only its unorganized 
rudiment ; if we are to name it by itself, we had better 
call it man's conscience or morality than his religion. 
The name i religion ' should be reserved for the fully 
organized system of feeling, thought, and institution, 
for the Church, in short, of which this personal religion, 
so called, is but a fractional element." 


But if you say this, it will only show the more plainly 
how much the question of definition tends to become 
a dispute about names. Rather than prolong such a 
dispute, I am willing to accept almost any name for the 
personal religion of which I propose to treat. Call it 
conscience or morality, if you yourselves prefer, and not 
religion under either name it will be equally worthy of 
our study. As for myself, I think it will prove to con- 
tain some elements which morality pure and simple does 
not contain, and these elements I shall soon seek to point 
out ; so I will myself continue to apply the word ' reli- 
gion ' to it ; and in the last lecture of all, I will bring in 
the theologies and the ecclesiasticisms, and say something 
of its relation to them. 

In one sense at least the personal religion will prove 
itself more fundamental than either theology or ecclesias- 
ticism. Churches, when once established, live at second- 
hand upon tradition ; but the founders of every church 
owed their power originally to the fact of their direct 
personal communion with the divine. Not only the 
superhuman founders, the Christ, the Buddha, Mahomet, 
but all the originators of Christian sects have been in 
this case ; so personal religion should still seem the 
primordial thing, even to those who continue to esteem 
it incomplete. 

There are, it is true, other things in religion chrono- 
logically more primordial than personal devoutness in the 
moral sense. Fetishism and magic seem to have preceded 
inward piety historically at least our records of inward 
piety do not reach back so far. And if fetishism and 
magic be regarded as stages of religion, one may say 
that personal religion in the inward sense and the genu- 
inely spiritual ecclesiasticisms which it founds are phe- 
nomena of secondary or even tertiary order. But, quite 


apart from the fact that many anthropologists for in- 
stance, Jevons and Frazer expressly oppose ' religion ' 
and ' magic ' to each other, it is certain that the whole 
system of thought which leads to magic, fetishism, and 
the lower superstitions may just as well be called primi- 
tive science as called primitive religion. The question 
thus becomes a verbal one again ; and our knowledge of 
all these early stages of thought and feeling is in any 
case so conjectural and imperfect that farther discussion 
would not be worth while. 

Religion, therefore, as I now ask you arbitrarily to 
take it, shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experi- 
ences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they 
apjwehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever 
they may consider the divine. Since the relation may 
be either moral, physical, or ritual, it is evident that out 
of religion in the sense in which we take it, theologies, 
philosophies, and ecclesiastical organizations may second- 
arily grow. In these lectures, however, as I have already 
said, the immediate personal experiences will amply fill 
our time, and we shall hardly consider theology or eccle- 
siasticism at all. 

We escape much controversial matter by this arbitrary 
definition of our field. But, still, a chance of controversy 
comes up over the word c divine,' if we take it in the 
definition in too narrow a sense. There are systems of 
thought which the world usually calls religious, and yet 
which do not positively assume a God. Buddhism is 
in this case. Popularly, of course, the Buddha himself 
stands in place of a God ; but in strictness the Buddhis- 
tic system is atheistic. Modern transcendental idealism, 
Emersonianism, for instance, also seems to let God evap- 
orate into abstract Ideality. Not a deity in concreto, 
not a superhuman person, but the immanent divinity in 


things, the essentially spiritual structure of the universe, 
is the object of the transcendentalist cult. In that ad- 
dress to the graduating class at Divinity College in 1838 
which made Emerson famous, the frank expression of 
this worship of mere abstract laws was what made the 
scandal of the jDerformance. 

" These laws," said the speaker, " execute themselves. They 
are out of time, out of space, and not subject to circumstance : 
Thus, in the soul of man there is a justice whose retributions 
are instant and entire. He who does a good deed is instantly 
ennobled. He who does a mean deed is by the action itself 
contracted. He who puts off impurity thereby puts on purity. 
If a man is at heart just, then in so far is he God; the safety 
of God, the immortality of God, the majesty of God, do enter 
into that man with justice. If a man dissemble, deceive, he 
deceives himself, and goes out of acquaintance with his own 
being. Character is always known. Thefts never enrich ; 
alms never impoverish ; murder will speak out of stone walls. 
The least admixture of a lie for example, the taint of vanity, 
any attempt to make a good impression, a favorable appearance 
will instantly vitiate the effect. But speak the truth, and 
all things alive or brute are vouchers, and the very roots of the 
grass underground there do seem to stir and move to bear your 
witness. For all things proceed out of the same spirit, which 
is differently named love, justice, temperance, in its different 
applications, just as the ocean receives different names on the 
several shores which it washes. In so far as he roves from 
these ends, a man bereaves himself of power, of auxiliaries. 
His being shrinks ... he becomes less and less, a mote, a 
point, until absolute badness is absolute death. The perception 
of this law awakens in the mind a sentiment which we call the 
religious sentiment, and which makes our highest happiness. 
Wonderful is its power to charm and to command. It is a 
mountain air. It is the embalmer of the world. It makes the 
sky and the hills sublime, and the silent song of the stars is it. 
It is the beatitude of man. It makes him illimitable. When 
he says ' I ought ' ; when love warns him ; when he chooses, 


warned from on high, the good and great deed ; then, deep 
melodies wander through his soul from supreme wisdom. Then 
he can worship, and be enlarged by his worship ; for he can 
never go behind this sentiment. All the expressions of this 
sentiment are sacred and permanent in proportion to their 
purity. [They] affect us more than all other compositions. 
The sentences of the olden time, which ejaculate this piety, are 
still fresh and fragrant. And the unique impression of Jesus 
upon mankind, whose name is not so much written as ploughed 
into the history of this world, is proof of the subtle virtue of 
this infusion." 1 

Such is the Emersonian religion. The universe has a 
divine soul of order, which soul is moral, being also the 
soul within the soul of man. But whether this soul of the 
universe be a mere quality like the eye's brilliancy or 
the skin's softness, or whether it be a self-conscious life 
like the eye's seeing or the skin's feeling, is a decision 
that never unmistakably appears in Emerson's pages. 
It quivers on the boundary of these things, sometimes 
leaning one way, sometimes the other, to suit the literary 
rather than the philosophic need. Whatever it is, though, 
it is active. As much as if it were a God, we can trust 
it to protect all ideal interests and keep the world's bal- 
ance straight. The sentences in which Emerson, to the 
very end, gave utterance to this faith are as fine as any- 
thing in literature : " If you love and serve men, you 
cannot by any hiding or stratagem escape the remunera- 
tion. Secret retributions are always restoring the level, 
when disturbed, of the divine justice. It is impossible 
to tilt the beam. All the tyrants and proprietors and 
monopolists of the world in vain set their shoulders to 
heave the bar. Settles forevermore the ponderous equa- 
tor to its line, and man and mote, and star and sun, must 
range to it, or be pulverized by the recoil." 2 

1 Miscellanies, 1868, p. 120 (abridged). 

2 Lectures and Biographical Sketches, 1868, p. 186. 


Now it would be too absurd to say that the inner 
experiences that underlie such expressions of faith as 
this and impel the writer to their utterance are quite 
unworthy to be called religious experiences. The sort of 
appeal that Emersonian optimism, on the one hand, and 
Buddhistic pessimism, on the other, make to the individ- 
ual and the sort of response which he makes to them in 
his life are in fact indistinguishable from, and in many 
respects identical with, the best Christian appeal and 
response. We must therefore, from the experiential 
point of view, call these godless or quasi-godless creeds 
' religions ' ; and accordingly when in our definition of 
religion we speak of the individual's relation to ' what 
he considers the divine,' we must interpret the term 
' divine ' very broadly, as denoting any object that is 
godlike, whether it be a concrete deity or not. 

But the term ' godlike,' if thus treated as a floating 
general quality, becomes exceedingly vague, for many 
gods have flourished in religious history, and their attri- 
butes have been discrepant enough. What then is that 
essentially godlike quality be it embodied in a con- 
crete deity or not our relation to which determines our 
character as religious men ? It will repay us to seek 
some answer to this question before we proceed farther. 

For one thing, gods are conceived to be first things 
in the way of being and power. They overarch and 
envelop, and from them there is no escape. What relates 
to them is the first and last word in the way of truth. 
Whatever then were most primal and enveloping and 
deeply true might at this rate be treated as godlike, 
and a man's religion might thus be identified with his 
attitude, whatever it might be, towards what he felt to 
be the primal truth. 


Such a definition as this would in a way be defensible. 
Religion, whatever it is, is a man's total reaction upon 
life, so why not say that any total reaction upon life is a 
religion ? Total reactions are different from casual reac- 
tions, and total attitudes are different from usual or pro- 
fessional attitudes. To get at them you must go behind 
the foreground of existence and reach down to that curi- 
ous sense of the whole residual cosmos as an everlasting 
presence, intimate or alien, terrible or amusing, lovable 
or odious, which in some degree every one possesses. 
This sense of the world's presence, appealing as it does 
to our peculiar individual temperament, makes us either 
strenuous or careless, devout or blasphemous, gloomy or 
exultant, about life at large ; and our reaction, involun- 
tary and inarticulate and often half unconscious as it 
is, is the completest of all our answers to the question, 
" What is the character of this universe in which we 
dwell ? ' It expresses our individual sense of it in the 
most definite way. Why then not call these reactions 
our religion, no matter what specific character they may 
have ? Non-religious as some of these reactions may be, 
in one sense of the word ' religious,' they yet belong to 
the general sphere of the religions life, and so should 
generically be classed as religious reactions. " He be- 
lieves in No-God, and he worships him," said a colleague 
of mine of a student who was manifesting a fine atheistic 
ardor ; and the more fervent opponents of Christian doc- 
trine have often enough shown a temper which, psycho- 
logically considered, is indistinguishable from religious 

But so very broad a use of the word ' religion ' would 
be inconvenient, however defensible it might remain on 
logical grounds. There are trifling, sneering attitudes 
even towards the whole of life ; and in some men these 


attitudes are final and systematic. It would strain the 
ordinary use of language too muck to call such attitudes 
religious, even though, from the point of view of an 
unbiased critical philosophy, they might conceivably be 
perfectly reasonable ways of looking upon life. Voltaire, 
for example, writes thus to a friend, at the age of sev- 
enty-three : " As for myself," he says, "weak as I am, I 
carry on the war to the last moment, I get a hundred 
pike-thrusts, I return two hundred, and I laugh. I see 
near my door Geneva on fire with quarrels over nothing, 
and I laugh again ; and, thank God, I can look upon 
the world as a farce even when it becomes as tragic as 
it sometimes does. All comes out even at the end of 
the day, and all comes out still more even when all the 
days are over." 

Much as we may admire such a robust old gamecock 
spirit in a valetudinarian, to call it a religious spirit 
would be odd. Yet it is for the moment Voltaire's reac- 
tion on the whole of life. Je rrien fiche is the vulgar 
French equivalent for our English ejaculation ' Who 
cares?' And the happy termje m' en fichisme recently 
has been invented to designate the systematic determi- 
nation not to take anything in life too solemnly. ' All 
is vanity ' is the relieving word in all difficult crises for 
this mode of thought, which that exquisite literary 
genius Renan took pleasure, in his later days of sweet 
decay, in putting into coquettishly sacrilegious forms 
which remain to us as excellent expressions of the ' all 
is vanity ' state of mind. Take the following passage, 
for example, we must hold to duty, even against the 
evidence, Renan says, but he then goes on : 

" There are many chances that the world may be nothing but 
a fairy pantomime of which no God has care. We must there- 
fore arrange ourselves so that on neither hypothesis we shall be 


completely wrong. We must listen to the superior voices, but 
in such a way that if the second hypothesis were true we should 
not have been too completely duped. If in effect the world be 
not a serious thing, it is the dogmatic people who will be the 
shallow ones, and the worldly minded whom the theologians 
now call frivolous will be those who are really wise. 

" In utrumque paratus, then. Be ready for anything that 
perhaps is wisdom. Give ourselves up, according to the hour, 
to confidence, to skepticism, to optimism, to irony, and we may 
be sure that at certain moments at least we shall be with the 
truth. . . . Good-humor is a philosophic state of mind; it 
seems to say to Nature that we take her no more seriously than 
she takes us. I maintain that one should always talk of philo- 
sophy with a smile. We owe it to the Eternal to be virtuous ; 
but we have the right to add to this tribute our irony as a sort 
of personal reprisal. In this way we return to the right quarter 
jest for jest ; we play the trick that has been played on us. 
Saint Augustine's phrase : Lord, if we are deceived, it is by 
thee ! remains a fine one, well suited to our modern feeling. 
Only we wish the Eternal to know that if we accept the fraud, 
we accept it knowingly and willingly. We are resigned in 
advance to losing the interest on our investments of virtue, but 
we wish not to appear ridiculous by having counted on them 
too securely." x 

Surely all the usual associations of the word l religion ' 
would have to be stripped away if such a systematic 
parti pris of irony were also to be denoted by the name. 
For common men ' religion/ whatever more special mean- 
ings it may have, signifies always a serious state of mind. 
If any one phrase could gather its universal message, 
that phrase would be, ' All is not vanity in this Universe, 
whatever the appearances may suggest.' If it can stop 
anything, religion as commonly apprehended can stop just 
such chaffing talk as Renan's. It favors gravity, not 
pertness ; it says ' hush ' to all vain chatter and smart wit. 

1 Feuilles detachers, pp. 394-398 (abridged). 


But if hostile to light irony, religion is equally hostile 
to heavy grumbling and complaint. The world appears 
tragic enough in some religions, but the tragedy is real- 
ized as purging, and a way of deliverance is held to exist. 
We shall see enough of the religious melancholy in a 
future lecture ; but melancholy, according to our ordi- 
nary use of language, forfeits all title to be called reli- 
gious when, in Marcus Aurelius's racy words, the sufferer 
simply lies kicking and screaming after the fashion of 
a sacrificed pig 1 . The mood of a Schopenhauer or a 
Nietsche, and in a less degree one may sometimes say 
the same of our own sad Carlyle, though often an 
ennobling sadness, is almost as often only peevishness 
running away with the bit between its teeth. The sal- 
lies of the two German authors remind one, half the 
time, of the sick shriekings of two dying rats. They 
lack the purgatorial note which religious sadness gives 

There must be something solemn, serious, and tender 
about any attitude which we denominate religious. If glad, 
it must not grin or snicker ; if sad, it must not scream or 
curse. It is precisely as being solemn experiences that I 
wish to interest you in religious experiences. So I pro- 
pose arbitrarily again, if you please to narrow our 
definition once more by saying that the word ' divine,' 
as employed therein, shall mean for us not merely the 
primal and enveloping and real, for that meaning if taken 
without restriction might well prove too broad. The 
divine shall mean for us only such a primal reality as 
the individual feels impelled to respond to solemnly and 
gravely, and neither by a curse nor a jest. 

But solemnity, and gravity, and all such emotional at- 
tributes, admit of various shades ; and, do what we will 
with our defining, the truth must at last be confronted 


that we are dealing with a field of experience where there 
is not a single conception that can be sharply drawn. 
The pretension, under such conditions, to be rigorously 
' scientific ' or ' exact ' in our terms would only stamp 
us as lacking in understanding of our task. Things are 
more or less divine, states of mind are more or less reli- 
gious, reactions are more or less total, but the bounda- 
ries are always misty, and it is everywhere a question 
of amount and degree. Nevertheless, at their extreme of 
development, there can never be any question as to what 
experiences are religious. The divinity of the object 
and the solemnity of the reaction are too well marked 
for doubt. Hesitation as to whether a state of mind is 
' religious,' or ' irreligious,' or ' moral,' or ' philosophi- 
cal,' is only likely to arise when the state of mind is 
weakly characterized, but in that case it will be hardly 
worthy of our study at all. With states that can only 
by courtesy be called religious we need have nothing to 
do, our only profitable business being with what nobody 
can possibly feel tempted to call anything else. I said 
in my former lecture that we learn most about a thing 
when we view it under a microscope, as it were, or in its 
most exaggerated form. This is as true of religious 
phenomena as of any other kind of fact. The only cases 
likely to be profitable enough to repay our attention will 
therefore be cases where the religious spirit is unmistak- 
able and extreme. Its fainter manifestations we may 
tranquilly pass by. Here, for example, is the total reac- 
tion upon life of Frederick Locker Lampson, whose auto- 
biography, entitled ' Confidences,' proves him to have 
been a most amiable man. 

" I am so far resigned to my lot that I feel small pain at the 
thought of having to part from what has been called the plea- 
sant habit of existence, the sweet fable of life. I would not 


care to live my wasted life over again, and so to prolong my 
span. Strange to say, I have but little wish to be younger. I 
submit with a chill at my heart. I humbly submit because it 
is the Divine Will, and my appointed destiny. I dread the in- 
crease of infirmities that will make me a burden to those around 
me, those dear to me. No ! let me slip away as quietly and 
comfortably as I can. Let the end come, if peace come with it. 
" I do not know that there is a great deal to be said for this 
world, or our sojourn here upon it ; but it has pleased God so 
to place us, and it must please me also. I ask you, what is 
human life ? Is not it a maimed happiness care and weari- 
ness, weariness and care, with the baseless expectation, the 
strange cozenage of a brighter to-morrow ? At best it is but a 
froward child, that must be played with and humored, to keep 
it quiet till it falls asleep, and then the care is over." * 

This is a complex, a tender, a submissive, and a grace- 
ful state of mind. For myself, I should have no objec- 
tion to calling it on the whole a religious state of mind, 
although I dare say that to many of you it may seem too 
listless and half-hearted to merit so good a name. But 
what matters it in the end whether we call such a state 
of mind religious or not ? It is too insignificant for our 
instruction in any case ; and its very possessor wrote it 
down in terms which he would not have used unless he 
had been thinking of more energetically religious moods in 
others, with which he found himself unable to compete. 
It is with these more energetic states that our sole busi- 
ness lies, and we can perfectly well afford to let the minor 
notes and the uncertain border go. 

It was the extremer cases that I had in mind a little 
while ago when I said that personal religion, even with- 
out theology or ritual, would prove to embody some ele- 
ments that morality pure and simple does not contain. 
You may remember that I promised shortly to point out 

1 Op. cit, pp. 314, 313. 


what those elements were. In a general way I can now 
say what I had in mind. 

" I accept the universe " is reported to have been a 
favorite utterance of our New England transcendental- 
ist, Margaret Fuller ; and when some one repeated this 
phrase to Thomas Carlyle, his sardonic comment is said 
to have been : " Gad ! she 'd better ! ' : At bottom the 
whole concern of both morality and religion is with the 
manner of our acceptance of the universe. Do we ac- 
cept it only in part and grudgingly, or heartily and alto- 
gether ? Shall our protests against certain things in it 
be radical and unforgiving, or shall we think that, even 
with evil, there are ways of living that must lead to 
good? If we accept the whole, shall we do so as if- 
stunned into submission, as Carlyle would have us 
" Gad ! we 'd better ! " or shall we do so with enthu- 
siastic assent ? Morality pure and simple accepts the 
law of the whole which it finds reigning, so far as to 
acknowledge and obey it, but it may obey it with the 
heaviest and coldest heart, and never cease to feel it as 
a yoke. But for religion, in its strong and fully devel- 
oped manifestations, the service of the highest never is 
felt as a yoke. Dull submission is left far behind, and a 
mood of welcome, which may fill any place on the scale 
between cheerful serenity and enthusiastic gladness, has 
taken its place. 

It makes a tremendous emotional and practical differ- 
ence to one whether one accept the universe in the drab 
discolored way of stoic resignation to necessity, or with 
the passionate happiness of Christian saints. The differ- 
ence is as great as that between passivity and activity, 
as that between the defensive and the aggressive mood. 
Gradual as are the steps by which an individual may 


grow from one state into the other, many as are the in- 
termediate stages which different individuals represent, 
yet when you place the typical extremes beside each other 
for comparison, you feel that two discontinuous psycho- 
logical universes confront you, and that in passing from 
one to the other a ' critical point ' has been overcome. 

If we compare stoic with Christian ejaculations we see 
much more than a difference of doctrine ; rather is it a 
difference of emotional mood that parts them. When 
Marcus Aurelius reflects on the eternal reason that has 
ordered things, there is a frosty chill about his words 
which you rarely find in a Jewish, and never in a Chris- 
tian piece of religious writing. The universe is ' ac- 
cepted ' by all these writers ; but how devoid of passion 
,or exultation the spirit of the Roman Emperor is ! Com- 
pare his fine sentence : " If gods care not for me or 
my children, here is a reason for it," with Job's cry : 
" Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him ! " and you 
immediately see the difference I mean. The anima 
mundi, to whose disposal of his own personal destiny 
the Stoic consents, is there to be respected and sub- 
mitted to, but the Christian God is there to be loved; 
and the difference of emotional atmosphere is like that 
between an arctic climate and the tropics, though the out- 
come in the way of accepting actual conditions uncom- 
plainingly may seem in abstract terms to be much the 

" It is a man's duty," says Marcus Aurelius, " to comfort 
himself and wait for the natural dissolution, and not to be 
vexed, but to find refreshment solely in these thoughts first 
that nothing will happen to me which is not conformable to the 
nature of the universe ; and secondly that I need do nothing 
contrary to the God and deity within me ; for there is no man 
who can compel me to transgress. 1 He is an abscess on the 

1 Book V., ch. x. (abridged). 


universe who withdraws and separates himself from the reason 
of our common nature, through being displeased with the things 
which happen. For the same nature produces these, and has 
produced thee too. And so accept everything which happens, 
even if it seem disagreeable, because it leads to this, the health 
of the universe and to the prosperity and felicity of Zeus. For 
he would not have brought on any man what he has brought, 
if it were not useful for the whole. The integrity of the whole 
is mutilated if thou cuttest off anything. And thou dost cut 
off, as far as it is in thy power, when thou art dissatisfied, and 
in a manner triest to put anything out of the way." 1 

Compare now this mood with that of the old Christian 
author of the Theologia Germanica : 

" Where men are enlightened with the true light, they re- 
nounce all desire and choice, and commit and commend them- 
selves and all things to the eternal Goodness, so that every 
enlightened man could say : ' I would fain be to the Eternal 
Goodness what his own hand is to a man.' Such men are in 
a state of freedom, because they have lost the fear of pain or 
hell, and the hope of reward or heaven, and are living in pure 
submission to the eternal Goodness, in the perfect freedom of 
fervent love. When a man truly perceiveth and considereth 
himself, who and what he is, and flndeth himself utterly vile 
and wicked and unworthy, he falleth into such a deep abase- 
ment that it seemeth to him reasonable that all creatures in 
heaven and earth should rise up against him. And therefore 
he will not and dare not desire any consolation and release ; 
but he is willing to be unconsoled and unreleased ; and he doth 
not grieve over his sufferings, for they are right in his eyes, and 
he hath nothing to say against them. This is what is meant 
by true repentance for sin ; and he who in this present time 
entereth into this hell, none may console him. Now God hath 
not forsaken a man in this hell, but He is laying his hand upon 
him, that the man may not desire nor regard anything but the 
eternal Good only. And then, when the man neither careth 
for nor desireth anything but the eternal Good alone, and seek- 

1 Book V., ch. ix. (abridged). 


eth not himself nor his own things, but the honour of God only, 
he is made a partaker of all manner of joy, bliss, peace, rest, 
and consolation, and so the man is henceforth in the kingdom 
of heaven. This hell and this heaven are two good safe ways for 
a man, and happy is he who truly findeth them." 1 

How much more active and positive the impulse of the 
Christian writer to accept his place in the universe is ! 
Marcus Aurelius agrees to the scheme the German 
theologian agveeswith it. He literally abounds in agree- 
ment, he runs out to embrace the divine decrees. 

Occasionally, it is true, the Stoic rises to something like 
a Christian warmth of sentiment, as in the often quoted 
passage of Marcus Aurelius : 

" Everything harmonizes with me which is harmonious to 
thee, O Universe. Nothing for me is too early nor too late, 
which is in due time for thee. Everything is fruit to me which 
thy seasons bring, O Nature : from thee are all things, in thee 
are all things, to thee all things return. The poet says, Dear 
City of Cecrops ; and wilt thou not say, Dear City of Zeus ? " 2 

But compare even as devout a passage as this with a 
genuine Christian outpouring, and it seems a little cold. 
Turn, for instance, to the Imitation of Christ : 

" Lord, thou knowest what is best ; let this or that be accord- 
ing as thou wilt. Give what thou wilt, 60 much as thou wilt, 
when thou wilt. Do with me as thou knowest best, and as 
shall be most to thine honour. Place me where thou wilt, and 
freely work thy will with me in all things. . . . When could it 
be evil when thou wert near ? I had rather be poor for thy 
sake thaa rich without thee. I choose rather to be a pilgrim 
upon the earth with thee, than without thee to possess heaven. 
Where thou art, there is heaven ; and where thou art not, be- 
hold there death and hell." 3 

1 Chaps, x., xi. (abridged): Winkworth's translation. 

2 Book IV., 23. 

3 Benham's translation : Book III., chaps, xv., lix. Compare Mary 
Moody Emerson: "Let me be a blot on this fair world, the obscurest, the 


It is a good rule in physiology, when we are studying 
the meaning of an organ, to ask after its most peculiar 
and characteristic sort of performance, and to seek its 
office in that one of its functions which no other org-an 
can possibly exert. Surely the same maxim holds good 
in our present quest. The essence of religious experi- 
ences, the thing by which we finally must judge them, 
must be that element or quality in them which we can 
meet nowhere else. And such a quality will be of course 
most prominent and easy to notice in those religious 
experiences which are most one-sided, exaggerated, and 

Now when we compare these intenser experiences with 
the experiences of tamer minds, so cool and reasonable 
that we are tempted to call them philosophical rather 
than religious, we find a character that is perfectly dis- 
tinct. That character, it seems to me, should be regarded 
as the practically important differentia of religion for 
our purpose ; and just what it is can easily be brought 
out by comparing the mind of an abstractly conceived 
Christian with that of a moralist similarly conceived. 

A life is manly, stoical, moral, or philosophical, we say, 
in proportion as it is less swayed by paltry personal con- 
siderations and more by objective ends that call for 
energy, even though that energy bring personal loss and 
pain. This is the good side of war, in so far as it calls 
for ' volunteers ' ! And for morality life is a war, and 
the service of the highest is a sort of cosmic patriotism 
which also calls for volunteers. Even a sick man, unable 
to be militant outwardly, can carry on the moral warfare. 
He can willfully turn his attention away from his own 

loneliest sufferer, with one proviso, that I know it is His agency. I will 
love Him though He shed frost and darkness on every way of mine," R. 
W. Emerson : Lectures and Biographical Sketches, p. 188. 


future, whether in this world or the next. He can train 
himself to indifference to his present drawbacks and im- 
merse himself in whatever objective interests still remain 
accessible. He can follow public news, and sympathize 
with other people's affairs. He can cultivate cheerful 
manners, and be silent about his miseries. He can con- 
template whatever ideal aspects of existence his philo- 
sophy is able to present to him, and practice whatever 
duties, such as patience, resignation, trust, his ethical 
system requires. Such a man lives on his loftiest, largest 
plane. He is a high-hearted freeman and no pining 
slave. And yet he lacks something which the Christian 
par excellence, the mystic and ascetic saint, for example, 
has in abundant measure, and which makes of him a 
human being of an altogether different denomination. 

The Christian also spurns the pinched and mumping 
sick-room attitude, and the lives of saints are full of a 
kind of callousness to diseased conditions of body which 
probably no other human records show. But whereas 
the merely moralistic spurning takes an effort of volition, 
the Christian spurning is the result of the excitement of a 
higher kind of emotion, in the presence of which no exer- 
tion of volition is required. The moralist must hold his 
breath and keep his muscles tense ; and so long as this 
athletic attitude is possible all goes well morality suf- 
fices. But the athletic attitude tends ever to break 
down, and it inevitably does break down even in the most 
stalwart when the organism begins to decay, or when 
morbid fears invade the mind. To suggest personal will 
and effort to one all sicklied o'er with the sense of irre- 
mediable impotence is to suggest the most impossible of 
things. What he craves is to be consoled in his very 
powerlessness, to feel that the spirit of the universe re- 
cognizes and secures him, all decaying and failing as he 


is. Well, we are all such helpless failures in the last 
resort. The sanest and best of us are of one clay with 
lunatics and prison inmates, and death finally runs the 
robustest of us down. And whenever we feel this, such 
a sense of the vanity and provisionality of our voluntary 
career comes over us that all our morality appears but as 
a plaster hiding a sore it can never cure, and all our well- 
doing as the hollowest substitute for that well-being that 
our lives ought to be grounded in, but, alas ! are not. 

And here religion comes to our rescue and takes our 
fate into her hands. There is a state of mind, known 
to religious men, but to no others, in which the will to 
assert ourselves and hold our own has been displaced by 
a willingness to close our mouths and be as nothing" in the 
floods and waterspouts of God. In this state of mind, 
what we most dreaded has become the habitation of 
our safety, and the hour of our moral death has turned 
into our spiritual birthday. The time for tension in 
our soul is over, and that of happy relaxation, of calm 
deep breathing, of an eternal present, with no discordant 
future to be anxious about, has arrived. Fear is not 
held in abeyance as it is by mere morality, it is positively 
expunged and washed away. 

We shall see abundant examples of this happy state of 
mind in later lectures of this course. We shall see how 
infinitely passionate a thing religion at its highest flights 
can be. Like love, like wrath, like hope, ambition, jeal- 
ousy, like every other instinctive eagerness and impulse, 
it adds to life an enchantment which is not rationally or 
logically deducible from anything else. This enchant- 
ment, coming as a gift when it does come, a gift of our 
organism, the physiologists will tell us, a gift of God's 
grace, the theologians say, is either there or not there 
for us, and there are persons who can no more become 


possessed by it than they can fall in love with a given 
woman by mere word of command. Religious feeling 
is thus an absolute addition to the Subject's range of life. 
It gives him a new sphere of power. When the outward 
battle is lost, and the outer world disowns him, it redeems 
and vivifies an interior world which otherwise would be 
an empty waste. 

If religion is to mean anything definite for us, it seems 
to me that we ought to take it as meaning this added 
dimension of emotion, this enthusiastic temper of espousal, 
in regions where morality strictly so called can at best 
but bow its head and acquiesce. It ought to mean no- 
thing short of this new reach of freedom for us, with the 
struggle over, the keynote of the universe sounding in 
our ears, and everlasting possession spread before our 
eyes. 1 

This sort of happiness in the absolute and everlasting 
is what we find nowhere but in religion. It is parted off 
from all mere animal happiness, all mere enjoyment of 
the present, by that element of solemnity of which I have 
already made so much account. Solemnity is a hard 
thing to define abstractly, but certain of its marks are 
patent enough. A solemn state of mind is never crude 
or simple it seems to contain a certain measure of its 
own opposite in solution. A solemn joy preserves a sort 
of bitter in its sweetness ; a solemn sorrow is one to which 
we intimately consent. But there are writers who, real- 
izing that happiness of a supreme sort is the prerogative 
of religion, forget this complication, and call all happi- 
ness, as such, religious. Mr. Havelock Ellis, for exam- 

1 Once more, there are plenty of men, constitutionally sombre men, in 
whose religious life this rapturousness is lacking. They are religious in 
the wider sense; yet in this acutest of all senses they are not so, and it is 
religion in the acutest sense that I wish, without disputing about words, to 
study first, so as to get at its typical differentia. 



pie, identifies religion with the entire field of the soul's 
liberation from oppressive moods. 

"The simplest functions of physiological life," he writes, 
" may be its ministers. Every one who is at all acquainted 
with the Persian mystics knows how wine may be regarded as 
an instrument of religion. Indeed, in all countries and in all 
ages, some form of physical enlargement singing, dancing, 
drinking, sexual excitement has been intimately associated 
with worship. Even the momentary expansion of the soul in 
laughter is, to however slight an extent, a religious exercise. 
. . . Whenever an impulse from the world strikes against the 
organism, and the resultant is not discomfort or pain, not even 
the muscular contraction of strenuous manhood, but a joyous 
expansion or aspiration of the whole soul there is religion. 
It is the infinite for which we hunger, and we ride gladly on 
every little wave that promises to bear us towards it." 1 

But such a straight identification of religion with any 
and every form of happiness leaves the essential peculiar- 
ity of religious happiness out. The more commonplace 
happinesses which we get are ' reliefs,' occasioned by 
our momentary escapes from evils either experienced or 
threatened. But in its most characteristic embodiments, 
religious happiness is no mere feeling of escape. It cares 
no longer to escape. It consents to the evil outwardly as 
a form of sacrifice inwardly it knows it to be perma- 
nently overcome. If you ask hoio religion thus falls on 
the thorns and faces death, and in the very act annuls 
annihilation, I cannot explain the matter, for it is reli- 
gion's secret, and to understand it you must yourself have 
been a religious man of the extremer type. In our fu- 
ture examples, even of the simplest and healthiest-minded 
type of religious consciousness, we shall find this complex 
sacrificial constitution, in which a higher happiness holds 
a lower unhappiness in check. In the Louvre there is a 

1 The New Spirit, p. 232. 


picture, by Guido Reni, of St. Michael with his foot on 
Satan's neck. The richness of the picture is in large part 
due to the fieud's figure being there. The richness of its 
allegorical meaning also is due to his being there that 
is, the world is all the richer for having a devil in it, so 
long as we keep our foot upon his neck. In the religious 
consciousness, that is just the position in which the fiend, 
the negative or tragic principle, is found ; and for that 
very reason the religious consciousness is so rich from the 
emotional point of view. 1 We shall see how in certain 
men and women it takes on a monstrously ascetic form. 
There are saints who have literally fed on the negative 
principle, on humiliation and privation, and the thought 
of suffering and death, their souls growing in happi- 
ness just in proportion as their outward state grew more 
intolerable. No other emotion than religious emotion 
can bring a man to this peculiar pass. And it is for 
that reason that when we ask our question about the 
value of religion for human life, I think we ought to 
look for the answer among these violenter examples 
rather than among those of a more moderate hue. 

Having the phenomenon of our study in its acutest 
possible form to start with, we can shade down as much 
as we please later. And if in these cases, repulsive as 
they are to our ordinary worldly way of judging, we find 
ourselves compelled to acknowledge religion's value and 
treat it with respect, it will have proved in some way its 
value for life at large. By subtracting and toning down 
extravagances we may thereupon proceed to trace the 
boundaries of its legitimate sway. 

To be sure, it makes our task difficult to have to deal 
so much with eccentricities and extremes. " How can 

1 I owe this allegorical illustration to my lamented colleague aud friend, 
Charles Carroll Everett. 


religion on the whole be the most important of all human 
functions," you may ask, " if every several manifestation 
of it in turn have to be corrected and sobered down and 
pruned away ? ' : Such a thesis seems a paradox impos- 
sible to sustain reasonably, yet I believe that some- 
thing like it will have to be our final contention. That 
personal attitude which the individual finds himself im- 
pelled to take up towards what he apprehends to be the 
divine and you will remember that this was our defi- 
nition will prove to be both a helpless and a sacrificial 
attitude. That is, we shall have to confess to at least 
some amount of dependence on sheer mercy, and to 
practice some amount of renunciation, great or small, to 
save our souls alive. The constitution of the world we 
live in requires it : 

" Eutbehren sollst du ! sollst entbehren ! 
Das ist der ewige Gesang 
Der jedem an die Ohren klingt, 
Den, unser ganzes Leben lang 
Uns heiser jede Stunde singt." 

For when all is said and done, we are in the end abso- 
lutely dependent on the universe ; and into sacrifices 
and surrenders of some sort, deliberately looked at and 
accepted, we are drawn and pressed as into our only 
permanent positions of repose. Now in those states of 
mind which fall short of religion, the surrender is sub- 
mitted to as an imposition of necessity, and the sacrifice 
is undergone at the very best without complaint. In the 
religious life, on the contrary, surrender and sacrifice 
are positively espoused : even unnecessary givings-up are 
added in order that the happiness may increase. Religion 
thus makes easy and felicitous what in any case is 
necessary ; and if it be the only agency that can accom- 
plish this result, its vital importance as a human faculty 


stands vindicated beyond dispute. It becomes an essen- 
tial organ of our life, performing a function which no 
other portion of our nature can so successfully fulfill. 
From the merely biological point of view, so to call it, 
this is a conclusion to which, so far as I can now see, we 
shall inevitably be led, and led moreover by following 
the purely empirical method of demonstration which I 
sketched to you in the first lecture. Of the farther 
office of religion as a metaphysical revelation I will say 
nothing now. 

But to foreshadow the terminus of one's investigations 
is one thing, and to arrive there safely is another. In the 
next lecture, abandoning the extreme generalities which 
have engrossed us hitherto, I propose that we begin our 
actual journey by addressing ourselves directly to the 
concrete facts. 

Vk%c v - <^*\ *\ [&fy 



WERE one asked to characterize the life of religion 
in the broadest and most general terms possible, 
one might say that it consists of the belief that there 
is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in 
harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto. This belief 
and this adjustment are the religious attitude in the soul. 
I wish during this hour to call your attention to some of 
the psychological peculiarities of such an attitude as this, 
of belief in an object which we cannot see. All our atti- 
tudes, moral, practical, or emotional, as well as religious, 
are due to the ' objects ' of our consciousness, the things 
which we believe to exist, whether really or ideally, along 
with ourselves. Such objects may be present to our 
senses, or they may be present only to our thought. In 
either case they elicit from us a reaction ; and the reac- 
tion due to things of thought is notoriously in many 
cases as strong as that due to sensible presences. It 
may be even stronger. The memory of an insult may 
make us angrier than the insult did when we received it. 
We are frequently more ashamed of our blunders after- 
wards than we were at the moment of making them ; 
and in general our whole higher prudential and moral 
life is based on the fact that material sensations actually 
present may have a weaker influence on our action than 
ideas of remoter facts. 

The more concrete objects of most men's religion, the 
deities whom they worship, are known to them only in 


idea. It has been vouchsafed, for example, to very few 
Christian believers to have had a sensible vision of their 
Saviour ; though enough appearances of this sort are on 
record, by way of miraculous exception, to merit our 
attention later. The whole force of the Christian reli- 
gion, therefore, so far as belief in the divine personages 
determines the prevalent attitude of the believer, is in 
general exerted by the instrumentality of pure ideas, of 
which nothing in the individual's past experience directly 
serves as a model. 

But in addition to these ideas of the more concrete 
religious objects, religion is full of abstract objects which 
prove to have an equal power. God's attributes as such, 
his holiness, his justice, his mercy, his absoluteness, his 
infinity, his omniscience, his tri-unity, the various myster- 
ies of the redemptive process, the operation of the sacra- 
ments, etc., have proved fertile wells of inspiring medita- 
tion for Christian believers. 1 We shall see later that the 
absence of definite sensible images is positively insisted 
on by the mystical authorities in all religions as the sine 
qua non of a successful orison, or contemplation of the 
higher divine truths. Such contemplations are expected 
(and abundantly verify the expectation, as we shall also 
see) to influence the believer's subsequent attitude very 
powerfully for good. 

Immanuel Kant held a curious doctrine about such ob- 
jects of belief as God, the design of creation, the soul, its 
freedom, and the life hereafter. These things, he said, 

1 Example : " I have had much comfort lately in meditating on the pas- 
sages which show the personality of the Holy Ghost, and his distinctness 
from the Father and the Son. It is a subject that requires searching into 
to find out, but, when realized, gives one so much more true and lively a 
sense of the fullness of the Godhead, and its work in us and to us, than 
when only thinking of the Spirit in its effect on us." AUGUSTUS Hare: 
Memorials, i. 244, Maria Hare to Lucy H. Hare. 


are properly not objects of knowledge at all. Our con- 
ceptions always require a sense-content to work with, and 
as the words ' soul/ ' God,' ' immortality,' cover no dis- 
tinctive sense-content whatever, it follows that theoreti- 
cally speaking they are words devoid of any significance. 
Yet strangely enough they have a definite meaning for 
our practice. We can act as if there were a God ; feel 
as if we were free ; consider Nature as if she were full 
of special designs ; lay plans as if we were to be immor- 
tal ; and we find then that these words do make a genu- 
ine difference in our moral life. Our faith that these 
unintelligible objects actually exist proves thus to be a 
full equivalent in praktischer Hinsicht, as Kant calls it, or 
from the point of view of our action, for a knowledge of 
lohat they might be, in case we were permitted positively 
to conceive them. So we have the strange phenomenon, 
as Kant assures us, of a mind believing with all its 
strength in the real presence of a set of things of no one 
of which it can form any notion whatsoever. 

My object in thus recalling Kant's doctrine to your 
mind is not to express any opinion as to the accuracy of 
this particularly uncouth part of his philosophy, but only 
to illustrate the characteristic of human nature which we 
are considering, by an example so classical in its exagger- 
ation. The sentiment of reality can indeed attach itself 
so strongly to our object of belief that our whole life is 
polarized through and through, so to speak, by its sense 
of the existence of the thing believed in, and yet that 
thing, for purpose of definite description, can hardly be 
said to be present to our mind at all. It is as if a bar of 
iron, without touch or sight, with no representative faculty 
whatever, might nevertheless be strongly endowed with an 
inner capacity for magnetic feeling ; and as if, through 
the various arousals of its magnetism by magnets coming 


and going in its neighborhood, it might be consciously 
determined to different attitudes and tendencies. Such 
a bar of iron could never give you an outward descrip- 
tion of the agencies that had the power of stirring it so 
strongly ; yet of their presence, and of their significance 
for its life, it would be intensely aware through every 
fibre of its being. 

It is not only the Ideas of pure Reason, as Kant styled 
them, that have this power of making us vitally feel pre- 
sences that we are impotent articulately to describe. All 
sorts of higher abstractions bring with them the same 
kind of impalpable appeal. Remember those passages 
from Emerson which I read at my last lecture. The 
whole universe of concrete objects, as we know them, 
swims, not only for such a transcendentalist writer, but 
for all of us, in a wider and higher universe of abstract 
ideas, that lend it its significance. As time, space, and 
the ether soak through all things, so (we feel) do abstract 
and essential goodness, beauty, strength, significance, 
justice, soak through all things good, strong, significant, 
and just. 

Such ideas, and others equally abstract, form the back- 
ground for all our facts, the fountain-head of all the 
possibilities we conceive of. They give its ' nature,' as 
we call it, to every special thing. Everything we know 
is ' what ' it is by sharing in the nature of one of these 
abstractions. We can never look directly at them, for 
they are bodiless and featureless and footless, but we 
grasp all other things by their means, and in handling 
the real world we should be stricken with helplessness in 
just so far forth as we might lose these mental objects, 
these adjectives and adverbs and predicates and heads of 
classification and conception. 

This absolute determinability of our mind by abstrac- 


tions is one of the cardinal facts in our human constitu- 
tion. Polarizing and magnetizing us as they do, we turn 
towards them and from them, we seek them, hold them, 
hate them, bless them, just as if they were so many con- 
crete beings. And beings they are, beings as real in the 
realm which they inhabit as the changing things of sense 
are in the realm of space. 

Plato gave so brilliant and impressive a defense of this 
common human feeling, that the doctrine of the reality 
of abstract objects has been known as the platonic theory 
of ideas ever since. Abstract Beauty, for example, is for 
Plato a perfectly definite individual being, of which the 
intellect is aware as of something additional to all the per- 
ishing beauties of the earth. " The true order of going," 
he says, in the often quoted passage in his ' Banquet,' 
" is to use the beauties of earth as steps along which one 
mounts upwards for the sake of that other Beauty, going 
from one to two, and from two to all fair forms, and from 
fair forms to fair actions, and from fair actions to fair 
notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion 
of absolute Beauty, and at last knows what the essence 
of Beauty is." * In our last lecture we had a glimpse of 
the way in which a platonizing writer like Emerson may 
treat the abstract divineness of things, the moral struc- 
ture of the universe, as a fact worthy of worship. In 
those various churches without a God which to-day are 
spreading through the world under the name of ethical 
societies, we have a similar worship of the abstract di- 
vine, the moral law believed in as an ultimate object. 
' Science ' in many minds is genuinely taking the place 
of a religion. Where this is so, the scientist treats the 
' Laws of Nature ' as objective facts to be revered. A 
brilliant school of interpretation of Greek mythology 

1 Symposium, Jowett, 1871, i. 527. 


would have it that in their origin the Greek gods 
were only half-nietaphoric personifications of those great 
spheres of abstract law and order into which the natural 
world falls apart the sky-sphere, the ocean-sphere, the 
earth-sphere, and the like ; just as even now we may 
speak of the smile of the morning, the kiss of the breeze, 
or the bite of the cold, without really meaning that these 
phenomena of nature actually wear a human face. 1 

As regards the origin of the Greek gods, we need not 
at present seek an opinion. But the whole array of our 
instances leads to a conclusion something like this : It is 
as if there were in the human consciousness a sense of 
reality, a feeling of objective presence, a perception of 
what we may call ' something there? more deep and more 
general than any of the special and particular l senses ' 
by which the current psychology supposes existent reali- 
ties to be originally revealed. If this were so, we might 
suppose the senses to waken our attitudes and conduct as 
they so habitually do, by first exciting this sense of real- 
ity ; but anything else, any idea, for example, that might 
similarly excite it, would have that same prerogative of 
appearing real which objects of sense normally possess. 
So far as religious conceptions were able to touch this 
reality-feeling, they would be believed in in spite of criti- 
cism, even though they might be so vague and remote as 
to be almost unimaginable, even though they might be 
such non-entities in point of whatness, as Kant makes 
the objects of his moral theology to be. 

The most curious proofs of the existence of such an 
undifferentiated sense of reality as this are found in ex- 
periences of hallucination. It often happens that an 

1 Example : " Nature is always so interesting, under whatever aspect she 
shows herself, that when it rains, I seem to see a beautiful woman weeping. 
She appears the more beautiful, the more afflicted she is." B. de St. Pierre. 


hallucination is imperfectly developed : the person af- 
fected will feel a * presence ' in the room, definitely local- 
ized, facing in one particular way, real in the most em- 
phatic sense of the word, often coming suddenly, and as 
suddenly gone ; and yet neither seen, heard, touched, 
nor cognized in any of the usual ' sensible ' ways. Let 
me give you an example of this, before I pass to the 
objects with whose presence religion is more peculiarly 

An intimate friend of mine, one of the keenest intellects 
I know, has had several experiences of this sort. He 
writes as follows in response to my inquiries : 

" I have several times within the past few years felt the so- 
called ' consciousness of a presence.' The experiences which I 
have in mind are clearly distinguishable from another kind of 
experience which I have had very frequently, and which I fancy 
many persons would also call the ' consciousness of a presence.' 
But the difference for me between the two sets of experience 
is as great as the difference between feeling a slight warmth 
originating I know not where, and standing in the midst of a 
conflagration with all the ordinary senses alert. 

" It was about September, 1884, when I had the first experi- 
ence. On the previous night I had had, after getting into bed 
at my rooms in College, a vivid tactile hallucination of being 
grasped by the arm, which made me get up and search the 
room for an intruder ; but the sense of presence properly so 
called came on the next night. After I had got into bed and 
blown out the candle, I lay awake awhile thinking on the pre- 
vious night's experience, when suddenly I felt something come 
into the room and stay close to my bed. It remained only a 
minute or two. I did not recognize it by any ordinary sense, 
and yet there was a horribly unpleasant ' sensation ' connected 
with it. It stirred something more at the roots of my being 
than any ordinary perception. The feeling had something of 
the quality of a very large tearing vital pain spreading chiefly 
over the chest, but within the organism and yet the feeling 


was not pain so much as abhorrence. At all events, something 
was present with me, and I knew its presence far more surely 
than I have ever, known the presence of any fleshly living 
creature. I was conscious of its departure as of its coming: 
an almost instantaneously swift going through the door, and 
the ' horrible sensation ' disappeared. 

" On the third night when I retired my mind was absorbed 
in some lectures which I was preparing, and I was still ab- 
sorbed in these when I became aware of the actual presence 
(though not of the coming*) of the thing that was there the 
night before, and of the ' horrible sensation.' I then mentally 
concentrated all my effort to charge this ' thing,' if it was evil, 
to depart, if it was not evil, to tell me who or what it was, and 
if it could not explain itself, to go, and that I would compel it 
to go. It went as on the previous night, and my body quickly 
recovered its normal state. 

" On two other occasions in my life I have had precisely the 
same ' horrible sensation.' Once it lasted a full quarter of an 
hour. In all three instances the certainty that there in out- 
ward space there stood something was indescribably stronger 
than the ordinary certainty of companionship when we are in 
the close presence of ordinary living people. The something 
seemed close to me, and intensely more real than any ordinary 
perception. Although I felt it to be like unto myself, so to 
speak, or finite, small, and distressful, as it were, I did n't recog- 
nize it as airy individual being or person." 

Of course such an experience as this does not connect 
itself with the religious sphere. Yet it may upon occa- 
sion do so ; and the same correspondent informs me that 
at more than one other conjuncture he had the sense of 
presence developed with equal intensity and abruptness, 
only then it was filled with a quality of joy. 

" There was not a mere consciousness of something there, 
but fused in the central happiness of it, a startling awareness of 
some ineffable good. Not vague either, not like the emotional 
effect of some poem, or scene, or blossom, of music, but the sure 
knowledge of the close presence of a sort of mighty person, and 


after it went, the memory persisted as the one perception of 
reality. Everything else might be a dream, but not that." 

My friend, as it oddly happens, does not interpret 
these latter experiences theistically, as signifying the pre- 
sence of God. But it would clearly not have been 
unnatural to interpret them as a revelation of the deity's 
existence. When we reach the subject of mysticism, we 
shall have much more to say upon this head. 

Lest the oddity of these phenomena should disconcert 
you, I will venture to read you a couple of similar narra- 
tives, much shorter, merely to show that we are dealing 
with a well-marked natural kind of fact. In the first 
case, which I take from the Journal of the Society for 
Psychical Research, the sense of presence developed in 
a few moments into a distinctly visualized hallucination, 
but I leave that part of the story out. 

" I had read," the narrator says, " some twenty minutes or 
so, was thoroughly absorbed in the book, my mind was per- 
fectly quiet, and for the time being my friends were quite for- 
gotten, when suddenly without a moment's warning my whole 
being seemed roused to the highest state of tension or alive- 
ness, and I was aware, with an intenseness not easily imagined 
by those who had never experienced it, that another being 
or presence was not only in the room, but quite close to me. 
I put my book down, and although my excitement was great, 
I felt quite collected, and not conscious of any sense of fear. 
Without changing my position, and looking straight at the fire, 
I knew somehow that my friend A. H. was standing at my left 
elbow, but so far behind me as to be hidden by the armchair in 
which I was leaning back. Moving my eyes round slightly 
without otherwise changing my position, the lower portion of 
one leg became visible, and I instantly recognized the gray- 
blue material of trousers he often wore, but the stuff appeared 
semi-transparent, reminding me of tobacco smoke in consist- 
ency," 1 and hereupon the visual hallucination came, 
i Journal of the S. P. R., February, 1895, p. 26. 


Another informant writes : 

" Quite early in the night I was awakened. ... I felt as if 
I had been aroused intentionally, and at first thought some one 
was breaking into the house. ... I then turned on my side to 
go to sleep again, and immediately felt a consciousness of a 
presence in the room, and singular to state, it was not the con- 
sciousness of a live person, but of a spiritual presence. This 
may provoke a smile, but I can only tell you the facts as they 
occurred to me. I do not know how to better describe my 
sensations than by simply stating that I felt a consciousness of 
a spiritual presence. ... I felt also at the same time a strong 
feeling of superstitious dread, as if something strange and fear- 
ful were about to happen." 1 

Professor Flournoy of Geneva gives me the following 
testimony of a friend of his, a lady, who has the gift of 
automatic or involuntary writing : 

" Whenever I practice automatic writing, what makes me feel 
that it is not due to a subconscious self is the feeling I always 
have of a foreign presence, external to my body. It is some- 
times so definitely characterized that I could point to its exact 
position. This impression of presence is impossible to describe. 
It varies in intensity and clearness according to the personality 
from whom the writing professes to come. If it is some one 
whom I love, I feel it immediately, before any writing has come. 
My heart seems to recognize it." 

In an earlier book of mine I have cited at full length 
a curious case of presence felt by a blind man. The 
presence was that of the figure of a gray-bearded man 
dressed in a pepper and salt suit, squeezing himself 
under the crack of the door and moving across the floor 
of the room towards a sofa. The blind subject of this 
quasi-hallucination is an exceptionally intelligent reporter. 
He is entirely without internal visual imagery and cannot 
represent light or colors to himself, and is positive that 

1 E. Gurney: Phantasms of the Living, i. 384. 


his other senses, hearing, etc., were not involved in this 
false perception. It seems to have been an abstract con- 
ception rather, with the feelings of reality and spatial 
outwardness directly attached to it in other words, a 
fully objectified and exteriorized idea. 

Such cases, taken along with others which would be 
too tedious for quotation, seem sufficiently to prove the 
existence in our mental machinery of a sense of present 
reality more diffused and general than that which our 
special senses yield. For the pyschologists the tracing of 
the organic seat of such a feeling would form a pretty 
problem nothing could be more natural than to con- 
nect it with the muscular sense, with the feeling that our 
muscles were innervating themselves for action. What- 
soever thus innervated our activity, or 'made our flesh 
creep,' our senses are what do so oftenest, might 
then appear real and present, even though it were but an 
abstract idea. But with such vague conjectures we have 
no concern at present, for our interest lies with the fac- 
ulty rather than with its organic seat. 

Like all positive affections of consciousness, the sense 
of reality has its negative counterpart in the shape of a 
feeling of unreality by which persons may be haunted, 
and of which one sometimes hears complaint : 

" When I reflect on the fact that I have made my appear- 
ance by accident upon a globe itself whirled through space as 
the sport of the catastrophes of the heavens," says Madame 
Ackermann ; " when I see myself surrounded by beings as 
ephemeral and incomprehensible as I am myself, and all excit- 
edly pursuing pure chimeras, I experience a strange feeling of 
being in a dream. It seems to me as if I have loved and 
suffered and that erelong I shall die, in a dream. My last 
word will be, ' I have been dreaming.' " * 

1 Pense'es d'un Solitaire, p. 66. 


In another lecture we shall see how in morbid melan- 
choly this sense of the unreality of things may become 
a carking pain, and even lead to suicide. 

We may now lay it down as certain that in the dis- 
tinctively religious sphere of experience, many persons 
(how many we cannot tell) possess the objects of their 
belief, not in the form of mere conceptions which their 
intellect accepts as true, but rather in the form of quasi- 
sensible realities directly apprehended. As his sense 
of the real presence of these objects fluctuates, so the 
believer alternates between warmth and coldness in his 
faith. Other examples will bring this home to one better 
than abstract description, so I proceed immediately to cite 
some. The first example is a negative one, deploring the 
loss of the sense in question. I have extracted it from 
an account given me by a scientific man of my acquaint- 
ance, of his religious life. It seems to me to show clearly 
that the feeling of reality may be something more like 
a sensation than an intellectual operation properly so- 

" Between twenty and thirty I gradually became more and 
more agnostic and irreligious, yet I cannot say that I ever 
lost that ' indefinite consciousness ' which Herbert Spencer 
describes so well, of an Absolute Reality behind phenomena. 
For me this Reality was not the pure Unknowable of Spencer's 
philosophy, for although I had ceased my childish prayers to 
God, and never prayed to It in a formal manner, yet my more 
recent experience shows me to have been in a relation to It which 
practically was the same thing as prayer. Whenever I had any 
trouble, especially when I had conflict with other people, either 
domestically or in the way of business, or when I was depressed 
in spirits or anxious about affairs, I now recognize that I used 
to fall back for support upon this curious relation I felt myself 
to be in to this fundamental cosmical It. It was on my side, or 
I was on Its side, however you please to term it, in the particu- 


lar trouble, and it always strengthened me and seemed to give 
me endless vitality to feel its underlying and supporting pre- 
sence. In fact, it was an unfailing fountain of living justice, 
truth, and strength, to which I instinctively turned at times of 
weakness, and it always brought me out. I know now that it 
was a personal relation I was in to it, because of late years the 
power of communicating with it has left me, and I am conscious 
of a perfectly definite loss. I used never to fail to find it when 
I turned to it. Then came a set of years when sometimes I 
found it, and then again I would be wholly unable to make 
connection with it. I remember many occasions on which at 
night in bed, I would be unable to get to sleep on account of 
worry. I turned this way and that in the darkness, and groped 
mentally for the familiar sense of that higher mind of my mind 
which had always seemed to be close at hand as it were, closing 
the passage, and yielding support, but there was no electric 
current. A blank was there instead of It: I couldn't find 
anything. Now, at the age of nearly fifty, my power of getting 
into connection with it has entirely left me ; and I have to con- 
fess that a great help has gone out of my life. Life has become 
curiously dead and indifferent ; and I can now see that my old 
experience was probably exactly the same thing as the prayers 
of the orthodox, only I did not call them by that name. What 
I have spoken of as ' It ' was practically not Spencer's Un- 
knowable, but just my own instinctive and individual God, 
whom I relied upon for higher sympathy, but whom somehow I 
have lost." 

Nothing is more common in the pages of religious 
biography than the way in which seasons of lively and 
of difficult faith are described as alternating. Probably 
every religious person has the recollection of particular 
crises in which a directer vision of the truth, a direct 
perception, perhaps, of a living God's existence, swept 
in and overwhelmed the languor of the more ordinary 
belief. In James Russell Lowell's correspondence there 
is a brief memorandum of an experience of this kind : 


" I bad a revelation last Friday evening. I was at Mary's, 
and happening to say something of the presence of spirits (of 
whom, I said, I was often dimly aware), Mr. Putnam entered 
into an argument with me on spiritual matters. As I was 
speaking, the whole system rose up before me like a vague, 
destiny looming from the Abyss. I never before so clearly felt 
the Spirit of God in me and around me. The whole room 
seemed to me full of God. The air seemed to waver to and fro 
with the presence of Something I knew not what. I spoke with 
the calmness and clearness of a prophet. I cannot tell you 
what this revelation was. I have not yet studied it enough. 
But I shall perfect it one day, and then you shall hear it and 
acknowledge its grandeur." 1 

Here is a longer and more developed experience from a 
manuscript communication by a clergyman, I take it 
from Starbuck's manuscript collection : 

" I remember the night, and almost the very spot on the hill- 
top, where my soul opened out, as it were, into the Infinite, 
and there was a rushing together of the two worlds, the inner 
and the outer. It was deep calling unto deep, the deep that 
my own struggle had opened up within being answered by the 
unfathomable deep without, reaching beyond the stars. I stood 
alone with Him who had made me, and all the beauty of the 
world, and love, and sorrow, and even temptation. I did not 
seek Him, but felt the perfect unison of my spirit with His. The 
ordinary sense of things around me faded. For the moment 
nothing but an ineffable joy and exaltation remained. It is 
impossible fully to describe the experience. It was like the 
effect of some great orchestra when all the separate notes have 
melted into one swelling harmony that leaves the listener con- 
scious of nothing save that his soul is being wafted upwards, 
and almost bursting with its own emotion. The perfect stillness 
of the night was thrilled by a more solemn silence. The dark- 
ness held a presence that was all the more felt because it was 
not seen. I could not any more have doubted that He was 

1 Letters of Lowell, i. 75. 


there than that I was. Indeed, I felt myself to be, if possible, 
the less real of the two. 

" My highest faith in God and truest idea of him were then 
born in me. I have stood upon the Mount of Vision since, and 
felt the Eternal round about me. But never since has there 
come quite the same stirring of the heart. Then, if ever, I 
believe, I stood face to face with God, and was born anew of 
his spirit. There was, as I recall it, no sudden change of 
thought or of belief, except that my early crude conception 
had, as it were, burst into flower. There was no destruction of 
the old, but a rapid, wonderful unfolding. Since that time no 
discussion that I have heard of the proofs of God's existence 
has been able to shake my faith. Having once felt the presence 
of God's spirit, I have never lost it again for long. My most 
assuring evidence of his existence is deeply rooted in that 
hour of vision, in the memory of that supreme experience, 
and in the conviction, gained from reading and reflection, that 
something the same has come to all who have found God. 
I am aware that it may justly be called mystical. I am not 
enough acquainted with philosophy to defend it from that or 
any other charge. I feel that in writing of it I have overlaid 
it with words rather than put it clearly to your thought. But, 
such as it is, I have described it as carefully as I now am able 
to do." 

Here is another document, even more definite in char- 
acter, which, the writer being a Swiss, I translate from 
the French original. 1 

" I was in perfect health : we were on our sixth day of tramp- 
ing, and in good training. We had come the day before from 
Sixt to Trient by Buet. I felt neither fatigue, hunger, nor 
thirst, and my state of mind was equally healthy. I had had at 
Forlaz good news from home ; I was subject to no anxiety, 
either near or remote, for we had a good guide, and there was 
not a shadow of uncertainty about the road we should follow. 
I can best describe the condition in which I was by calling it a 

1 I borrow it, with Professor Flournoy's permission, from Lis rich collec- 
tion of psychological documents. 


state of equilibrium. When all at once I experienced a feeling 
of being raised above myself, I felt the presence of God I 
tell of the thing just as I was conscious of it as if his good- 
ness and his power were penetrating me altogether. The throb 
of emotion was so violent that I could barely tell the boys to 
pass on and not wait for me. I then sat down on a stone, 
unable to stand any longer, and my eyes overflowed with tears. 
I thanked God that in the course of my life he had taught me 
to know him, that he sustained my life and took pity both on 
the insignificant creature and on the sinner that I was. I 
begged him ardently that my life might be consecrated to the 
doing of his will. I felt his reply, which was that I should do 
his will from day to day, in humility and poverty, leaving him, 
the Almighty God, to be judge of whether I should some time 
be called to bear witness more conspicuously. Then, slowly, the 
ecstasy left my heart ; that is, I felt that God had withdrawn 
the communion which he had granted, and I was able to walk on, 
but very slowly, so strongly was I still possessed by the interior 
emotion. Besides, I had wept uninterruptedly for several min- 
utes, my eyes were swollen, and I did not wish my companions to 
see me. The state of ecstasy may have lasted four or five min- 
utes, although it seemed at the time to last much longer. My 
comrades waited for me ten minutes at the cross of Barine, but 
I took about twenty-five or thirty minutes to join them, for as 
well as I can remember, they said that I had kept them back for 
about half an hour. The impression had been so profound that 
in climbing slowly the slope I asked myself if it were possible 
that Moses on Sinai could have had a more intimate communi- 
cation with God. I think it well to add that in this ecstasy of 
mine God had neither form, color, odor, nor taste ; moreover, 
that the feeling of his presence was accompanied with no deter- 
minate localization. It was rather as if my personality had 
been transformed by the presence of a spiritual spirit. But 
the more I seek words to express this intimate intercourse, the 
more I feel the impossibility of describing the thing by any of 
our usual images. At bottom the expression most apt to render 
what I felt is this : God was present, though invisible ; he fell 
under no one of my senses, yet my consciousness perceived him." 


The adjective ' mystical ' is technically applied, most 
often, to states that are of brief duration. Of course 
such hours of rapture as the last two persons describe 
are mystical experiences, of which in a later lecture I 
shall have much to say. Meanwhile here is the abridged 
record of another mystical or semi-mystical experience, 
in a mind evidently framed by nature for ardent piety. 
I owe it to Starbuck's collection. The lady who gives 
the account is the daughter of a man well known in his 
time as a writer against Christianity. The suddenness of 
her conversion shows well how native the sense of God's 
presence must be to certain minds. She relates that she 
w T as brought up in entire ignorance of Christian doc- 
trine, but, when in Germany, after being talked to by 
Christian friends, she read the Bible and prayed, and 
finally the plan of salvation flashed upon her like a 
stream of light. 

" To this day," she writes, " I cannot understand dallying 
with religion and the commands of God. The very instant I 
heard my Father's cry calling unto me, my heart bounded in 
recognition. I ran, I stretched forth my arms, I cried aloud, 
' Here, here I am, my Father.' Oh, happy child, what should 
I do ? ' Love me,' answered my God. ' I do, I do,' I cried 
passionately. ' Come unto me,' called my Father. ' I will,' 
my heart panted. Did I stop to ask a single question ? Not 
one. It never occurred to me to ask whether I was good 
enough, or to hesitate over my unfitness, or to find out what I 
thought of his church, or ... to wait until I should be satis- 
fied. Satisfied ! I was satisfied. Had I not found my God 
and my Father? Did he not love me? Had he not called 
me ? Was there not a Church into which I might enter ? . . . 
Since then I have had direct answers to prayer so significant 
as to be almost like talking with God and hearing his answer. 
The idea of God's reality has never left me for one moment." 

Here is still another case, the writer bein^ a man asred 


twenty-seven, in which the experience, probably almost 
as characteristic, is less vividly described : 

" I have on a number of occasions felt that I had enjoyed a 
period of intimate communion with the divine. These meetings 
came unasked and unexpected, and seemed to consist merely in 
the temporary obliteration of the conventionalities which usually 
surround and cover my life. . . . Once it was when from the 
summit of a high mountain I looked over a gashed and cor- 
rugated landscape extending to a long convex of ocean that 
ascended to the horizon, and again from the same point when I 
could see nothing beneath me but a boundless expanse of white 
cloud, on the blown surface of which a few high peaks, includ- 
ing the one I was on, seemed plunging about as if they were 
dragging their anchors. What I felt on these occasions was a 
temporary loss of my own identity, accompanied by an illumi- 
nation which revealed to me a deeper significance than I had 
been wont to attach to life. It is in this that I find my justifi- 
cation for saying that I have enjoyed communication with God. 
Of course the absence of such a being as this would be chaos. 
I cannot conceive of life without its presence." 

Of the more habitual and so to speak chronic sense of 
God's presence the following- sample from Professor Star- 
buck's manuscript collection may serve to give an idea. 
It is from a man aged forty-nine, probably thousands 
of unpretending Christians would write an almost identi- 
cal account. 

" God is more real to me than any thought or thing or per- 
son. I feel his presence positively, and the more as I live in 
closer harmony with his laws as written in my body and mind. 
I feel him in the sunshine or rain ; and awe mingled with a 
delicious restfulness most nearly describes my feelings. I talk 
to him as to a companion in prayer and praise, and our com- 
munion is delightful. He answers me again and again, often 
in words so clearly spoken that it seems my outer ear must 
have carried the tone, but generally in strong mental impres- 
sions. Usually a text of Scripture, unfolding some new view 


of him and his love for me, and care for my safety. I could 
give hundreds of instances, in school matters, social problems, 
financial difficulties, etc. That he is mine and I am his never 
leaves me, it is an abiding joy. Without it life would be a 
blank, a desert, a shoreless, trackless waste." 

I subjoin some more examples from writers of different 
ages and sexes. They are also from Professor Starbuck's 
collection, and their number might be greatly multiplied. 
The first is from a man twenty-seven years old : 

" God is quite real to me. I talk to him and often get 
answers. Thoughts sudden and distinct from any I have been 
entertaining come to my mind after asking God for his direction. 
Something over a year ago I was for some weeks in the direst 
perplexity. When the trouble first appeared before me I was 
dazed, but before long (two or three hours) I could hear dis- 
tinctly a passage of Scripture : ' My grace is sufficient for 
thee.' Every time my thoughts turned to the trouble I could 
hear this quotation. I don't think I ever doubted the existence 
of God, or had him drop out of my consciousness. God has 
frequently stepped into my affairs very perceptibly, and I feel 
that he directs many little details all the time. But on two or 
three occasions he has ordered ways for me very contrary to my 
ambitions and plans." 

Another statement (none the less valuable psychologi- 
cally for being so decidedly childish) is that of a boy of 
seventeen : 

" Sometimes as I go to church, I sit down, join in the ser- 
vice, and before I go out I feel as if God was with me, right 
side of me, singing and reading the Psalms with me. . . . And 
then again I feel as if I could sit beside him, and put my arms 
around him, kiss him, etc. When I am taking Holy Commun- 
ion at the altar, I try to get with him and generally feel his 

I let a few other cases follow at random : 

" God surrounds me like the physical atmosphere. He is 


closer to me than my own breath. In him literally I live and 
move and have my being." 

" There are times when I seem to stand in his very presence, 
to talk with him. Answers to prayer have come, sometimes 
direct and overwhelming in their revelation of his presence and 
powers. There are times when God seems far off, but this is 
always my own fault." 

" I have the sense of a presence, strong, and at the same time 
soothing, which hovers over me. Sometimes it seems to enwrap 
me with sustaining arms." 

Such is the human ontological imagination, and such 
is the convincingness of what it brings to birth. Unpic- 
turable beings are realized, and realized with an intensity 
almost like that of an hallucination. They determine 
our vital attitude as decisively as the vital attitude of 
lovers is determined by the habitual sense, by which each 
is haunted, of the other being in the world. A lover has 
notoriously this sense of the continuous being of his 
idol, even when his attention is addressed to other mat- 
ters and he no longer represents her features. He can- 
not forget her ; she uninterruptedly affects him through 
and through. 

I spoke of the convincingness of these feelings of 
reality, and I must dwell a moment longer on that point. 
They are as convincing to those who have them as any 
direct sensible experiences can be, and they are, as a rule, 
much more convincing than results established by mere 
logic ever are. One may indeed be entirely without 
them ; probably more than one of you here present is 
without them in any marked degree ; but if you do have 
them, and have them at all strongly, the probability is 
that you cannot help regarding them as genuine percep- 
tions of truth, as revelations of a kind of reality which 
no adverse argument, however unanswerable by you in 


words, can expel from your belief. The opinion opposed 
to mysticism in philosophy is sometimes spoken of as 
rationalism. Rationalism insists that all our beliefs 
ought ultimately to find for themselves articulate grounds. 
Such grounds, for rationalism, must consist of four 
things : (1) definitely statable abstract principles ; (2) defi- 
nite facts of sensation ; (3) definite hypotheses based on 
such facts ; and (4) definite inferences logically drawn. 
Vague impressions of something indefinable have no 
place in the rationalistic system, which on its positive 
side is surely a splendid intellectual tendency, for not 
only are all our philosophies fruits of it, but physical 
science (amongst other good things) is its result. 

Nevertheless, if we look on man's whole mental life as 
it exists, on the life of men that lies in them apart from 
their learning and science, and that they inwardly and 
privately follow, we have to confess that the part of it of 
which rationalism can give an account is relatively super- 
ficial. It is the part that has the prestige undoubtedly, 
for it has the loquacity, it can challenge you for proofs, 
and chop logic, and put you down with words. But it 
will fail to convince or convert you all the same, if your 
dumb intuitions are opposed to its conclusions. If you 
have intuitions at all, they come from a deeper level of 
your nature than the loquacious level which rationalism 
inhabits. Your whole subconscious life, your impulses, 
your faiths, your needs, your divinations, have prepared 
the premises, of which your consciousness now feels the 
weight of the result ; and something in you absolutely 
knoios that that result must be truer than any logic- 
chopping rationalistic talk, however clever, that may con- 
tradict it. This inferiority of the rationalistic level in 
founding belief is just as manifest when rationalism 
argues for religion as when it argues against it. That 


vast literature of proofs of God's existence drawn from 
the order of nature, which a century ago seemed so over- 
whelmingly convincing, to-day does little more than 
gather dust in libraries, for the simple reason that our 
generation has ceased to believe in the kind of God it 
argued for. Whatever sort of a being God may be, we 
know to-day that he is nevermore that mere external 
inventor of ' contrivances ' intended to make manifest his 
' glory ' in which our great-grandfathers took such satis- 
faction, though just how we know this we cannot possi- 
bly make clear by words either to others or to ourselves. 
I defy any of you here fully to account for your persua- 
sion that if a God exist he must be a more cosmic and 
tragic personage than that Being. 

The truth is that in the metaphysical and religious 
sphere, articulate reasons are cogent for us only when 
our inarticulate feelings of reality have already been 
impressed in favor of the same conclusion. Then, indeed, 
our intuitions and our reason work together, and great 
world-ruling systems, like that of the Buddhist or of the 
Catholic philosophy, may grow up. Our impulsive belief 
is here always what sets up the original body of truth, 
and our articulately verbalized philosophy is but its showy 
translation into formulas. The unreasoned and immedi- 
ate assurance is the deep thing in us, the reasoned argu- 
ment is but a surface exhibition. Instinct leads, intelli- 
gence does but follow. If a person feels the presence of 
a living God after the fashion shown by my quotations, 
your critical arguments, be they never so superior, will 
vainly set themselves to change his faith. 

Please observe, however, that I do not yet say that it is 
better that the subconscious and non-rational should thus 
hold primacy in the religious realm. I confine myself to 
simply pointing out that they do so hold it as a matter of 


So much for our sense of the reality of the religious 
objects. Let me now say a brief word more about the 
attitudes they characteristically awaken. 

We have already agreed that they are solemn ; and we 
have seen reason to think that the most distinctive of 
them is the sort of joy which may result in extreme cases 
from absolute self-surrender. The sense of the kind of 
object to which the surrender is made has much to do 
with determining the precise complexion of the joy ; and 
the whole phenomenon is more complex than any simple 
formula allows. In the literature of the subject, sadness 
and gladness have each been emphasized in turn. The 
ancient saying that the first maker of the Gods was fear 
receives voluminous corroboration from every age of 
religious history ; but none the less does religious his- 
tory show the part which joy has evermore tended to 
play. Sometimes the joy has been primary ; sometimes 
secondary, being the gladness of deliverance from the 
fear. This latter state of things, being the more com- 
plex, is also the more complete ; and as we proceed, I 
think we shall have abundant reason for refusing to 
leave out either the sadness or the gladness, if we look 
at religion with the breadth of view which it demands. 
Stated in the completest possible terms, a man's religion 
involves both moods of contraction and moods of ex- 
pansion of his being. But the quantitative mixture and 
order of these moods vary so much from one age of the 
world, from one system of thought, and from one indi- 
vidual to another, that you may insist either on the dread 
and the submission, or on the peace and the freedom as the 
essence of the matter, and still remain materially within 
the limits of the truth. The constitutionally sombre and 
the constitutionally sanguine onlooker are bound to em- 
phasize opposite aspects of what lies before their eyes. 


The constitutionally sombre religious person makes 
even of his religious peace a very sober thing. Danger 
still hovers in the air about it. Flexion and contraction 
are not wholly checked. It were sparrowlike and child- 
ish after our deliverance to explode into twittering laugh- 
ter and caper-cutting, and utterly to forget the imminent 
hawk on bough. Lie low, rather, lie low ; for you are 
in the hands of a living God. In the Book of Job, for 
example, the impotence of man and the omnipotence of 
God is the exclusive burden of its author's mind. " It 
is as high as heaven ; what canst thou do ? deeper 
than hell ; what canst thou know ? ' : There is an astrin- 
gent relish about the truth of this conviction which some 
men can feel, and which for them is as near an approach 
as can be made to the feeling of religious joy. 

" In Job," says that coldly truthful writer, the author of 
Mark Rutherford, " God reminds us that man is not the mea- 
sure of his creation. The world is immense, constructed on 
no plan or theory which the intellect of man can grasp. It is 
transcendent everywhere. This is the burden of every verse, 
and is the secret, if there be one, of the poem. Sufficient or 
insufficient, there is nothing more. . . . God is great, we know 
not his ways. He takes from us all we have, but yet if we pos- 
sess our souls in patience, we may pass the valley of the shadow, 
and come out in sunlight again. We may or we may not! 
. . . What more have we to say now than God said from the 
whirlwind over two thousand five hundred years ago ? " x 

If we turn to the sanguine onlooker, on the other hand, 
we find that deliverance is felt as incomplete unless the 
burden be altogether overcome and the danger forgotten. 
Such onlookers give us definitions that seem to the som- 
bre minds of whom we have just been speaking to leave 
out all the solemnity that makes religious peace so differ- 
ent from merely animal joys. In the opinion of some 

1 Mark Rutherford's Deliverance, London, 1885, pp. 196, 198. 


writers an attitude might be called religious, though no 
touch were left in it of sacrifice or submission, no tend- 
ency to flexion, no bowing of the head. Any " habitual 
and regulated admiration," says Professor J. R. Seeley, 1 
" is worthy to be called a religion " ; and accordingly he 
thinks that our Music, our Science, and our so-called 
' Civilization,' as these things are now organized and 
admiringly believed in, form the more genuine religions 
of our time. Certainly the unhesitating and unreasoning 
way in which we feel that we must inflict our civilization 
upon ' lower ' races, by means of Hotchkiss guns, etc., 
reminds one of nothing so much as of the early spirit of 
Islam spreading its religion by the sword. 

In my last lecture I quoted to you the ultra-radical 
opinion of Mr. Havelock Ellis, that laughter of any sort 
may be considered a religious exercise, for it bears wit- 
ness to the soul's emancipation. I quoted this opinion in 
order to deny its adequacy. But we must now settle our 
scores more carefully with this whole optimistic way of 
thinking. It is far too complex to be decided off-hand. 
I propose accordingly that we make of religious optimism 
the theme of the next two lectures. 

1 In his book (too little read, I fear), Natural Religion, 3d edition. 
Boston, 1886, pp. 91, 122. 



IF we were to ask the question : ' What is human 
life's chief concern ? ' one of the answers we should 
receive would be : 'It is happiness.' How to gain, how 
to keep, how to recover happiness, is in fact for most 
men at all times the secret motive of all they do, and of 
all they are willing to endure. The hedonistic school in 
ethics deduces the moral life wholly from the experiences 
of happiness and unhappiness which different kinds of 
conduct bring ; and, even more in the religious life than 
in the moral life, happiness and unhappiness seem to be 
the poles round which the interest revolves. We need 
not go so far as to say with the author whom I lately 
quoted that any persistent enthusiasm is, as such, reli- 
gion, nor need we call mere laughter a religious exercise ; 
but we must admit that any persistent enjoyment may 
produce the sort of religion which consists in a grateful 
admiration of the gift of so happy an existence ; and we 
must also acknowledge that the more complex ways of 
experiencing religion are new manners of producing hap- 
piness, wonderful inner paths to a supernatural kind 
of happiness, when the first gift of natural existence is 
unhappy, as it so often proves itself to be. 

With such relations between religion and happiness, it 
is perhaps not surprising that men come to regard the 
happiness which a religious belief affords as a proof of 
its truth. If a creed makes a man feel happy, he almost 
inevitably adopts it. Such a belief ought to be true; 


therefore it is true such, rightly or wrongly, is one 
of the ' immediate inferences ' of the religious logic used 
by ordinary men. 

" The near presence of God's spirit," says a German writer, 1 
" may be experienced in its reality indeed only experienced. 
And the mark by which the spirit's existence and nearness are 
made irrefutably clear to those who have ever had the expe- 
rience is the utterly incomparable feeling of happiness which is 
connected with the nearness, and which is therefore not only a 
possible and altogether proper feeling for us to have here below, 
but is the best and most indispensable proof of God's reality. 
No other proof is equally convincing, and therefore happiness 
is the point from which every efficacious new theology should 

In the hour immediately before us, I shall invite you 
to consider the simpler kinds of religious happiness, leav- 
ing the more complex sorts to be treated on a later day. 

In many persons, happiness is congenital and irre- 
claimable. ' Cosmic emotion ' inevitably takes in them 
the form of enthusiasm and freedom. I speak not only 
of those who are annually happy. I mean those who, 
when unhappiness is offered or proposed to them, posi- 
tively refuse to feel it, as if it were something mean and 
wrong. We find such persons in every age, passionately 
flinging themselves upon their sense of the goodness 
of life, in spite of the hardships of their own condition, 
and in spite of the sinister theologies into which they 
may be born. From the outset their religion is one of 
union with the divine. The heretics who went before the 
reformation are lavishly accused by the church writers 
of antinomian practices, just as the first Christians were 
accused of indulgence in orgies by the Romans. It is 
probable that there never has been a century in which the 
deliberate refusal to think ill of life has not been ideal- 

1 C. Hilty : Gliick, dritter Theil, 1900, p. 18. 


ized by a sufficient number of persons to form sects, open 
or secret, who claimed all natural things to be permitted. 
Saint Augustine's maxim, Dilige et quod vis fac, if you 
but love [God], you may do as you incline, is morally 
one of the profoundest of observations, yet it is pregnant, 
for such persons, with passports beyond the bounds of 
conventional morality. According to their characters 
they have been refined or gross ; but their belief has 
been at all times systematic enough to constitute a defi- 
nite religious attitude. God was for them a giver of 
freedom, and the sting of evil was overcome. Saint Fran- 
cis and his immediate disciples were, on the whole, of 
this company of spirits, of which there are of course infi- 
nite varieties. Rousseau in the earlier years of his writ- 
ing, Diderot, B. de Saint Pierre, and many of the leaders 
of the eighteenth century anti-christian movement were 
of this optimistic type. They owed their influence to a 
certain authoritativeness in their feeling that Nature, if 
you will only trust her sufficiently, is absolutely good. 

It is to be hoped that we all have some friend, perhaps 
more often feminine than masculine, and young than old, 
whose soul is of this sky-blue tint, whose affinities are 
rather with flowers and birds and all enchanting inno- 
cencies, than with dark human passions, who can think 
no ill of man or God, and in whom religious gladness, 
being in possession from the outset, needs no deliverance 
from any antecedent burden. 

" God has two families of children on this earth," says Fran- 
cis W. Newman, 1 " the once-born and the twice-born" and the 
once-horn he describes as follows : " They see God, not as a 
strict Judge, not as a Glorious Potentate ; but as the animating 
Spirit of a beautiful harmonious world, Beneficent and Kind, 
Merciful as well as Pure. The same characters generally have 

1 The Soul ; its Sorrows and its Aspirations, 3d edition, 1852, pp. 89, 91. 


no metaphysical tendencies : they do not look back into them- 
selves. Hence they are not distressed by their own imperfec- 
tions : yet it would be absurd to call them self-righteous ; for 
they hardly think of themselves at all. This childlike quality 
of their nature makes the opening of religion very happy to 
them : for they no more shrink from God, than a child from an 
emperor, before whom the parent trembles : in fact, they have 
no vivid conception of any of the qualities in which the severer 
Majesty of God consists. 1 He is to them the impersonation 
of Kindness and Beauty. They read his character, not in 
the disordered world of man, but in romantic and harmonious 
nature. Of human sin they know perhaps little in their own 
hearts and not very much in the world ; and human suffering 
does but melt them to tenderness. Thus, when they approach 
God, no inward disturbance ensues ; and without being as yet 
spiritual, they have a certain complacency and perhaps romantic 
sense of excitement in their simple worship." 

In the Romish Church such characters find a more 
congenial soil to grow in than in Protestantism, whose 
fashions of feeling have been set by minds of a decidedly 
pessimistic order. But even in Protestantism they have 
been abundant enough ; and in its recent * liberal ' de- 
velopments of Unitarianism and latitudinarianism gener- 
ally, minds of this order have played and still are playing 
leading and constructive parts. Emerson himself is an 
admirable example. Theodore Parker is another, here 
are a couple of characteristic passages from Parker's cor- 
respondence. 2 

" Orthodox scholars say : ' In the heathen classics you find no 
consciousness of sin.' It is very true God be thanked for it. 
They were conscious of wrath, of cruelty, avarice, drunkenness, 
lust, sloth, cowardice, and other actual vices, and strue-oled 
and got rid of the deformities, but they were not conscious of 

1 I once heard a lady describe the pleasure it gave her to think that she 
" could always cuddle up to God." 

2 John Weiss-: Life of Theodore Parker, i. 152, 32. 



'enmity against God,' and did n't sit down and whine and groan 
against non-existent evil. I have done wrong things enough in 
ray life, and do them now ; I miss the mark, draw bow, and 
try again. But I am not conscious of hating God, or man, or 
right, or love, and I know there is much ' health in me ' ; and in 
my body, even now, there dwelleth many a good thing, spite of 
consumption and Saint Paul." In another letter Parker writes : 
" I have swum in clear sweet waters all my days ; and if 
sometimes they were a little cold, and the stream ran adverse 
and something rough, it was never too strong to be breasted and 
swum through. From the days of earliest boyhood, when I 
went stumbling through the grass, ... up to the gray-bearded 
manhood of this time, there is none but has left me honey in 
the hive of memory that I now feed on for present delight. 
When I recall the years ... I am filled with a sense of sweet- 
ness and wonder that such little things can make a mortal so 
exceedingly rich. But I must confess that the chiefest of all 
my delights is still the religious." 

Another good expression of the i once-born ' type of 
consciousness, developing straight and natural, with no 
element of morbid compunction or crisis, is contained in 
the answer of Dr. Edward Everett Hale, the eminent 
Unitarian preacher and writer, to one of Dr. Starbuck's 
circulars. I quote a part of it : 

" I observe, with profound regret, the religious struggles 
which come into many biographies, as if almost essential to 
the formation of the hero. I ought to speak of these, to say 
that any man has an advantage, not to be estimated, who is 
born, as I was, into a family where the religion is simple and 
rational ; who is trained in the theory of such a religion, so that 
he never knows, for an hour, what these religious or irreligious 
struggles are. I always knew God loved me, and I was always 
grateful to him for the world he placed me in. I always liked 
to tell him so, and was always glad to receive his suggestions to 
me. ... I can remember perfectly that when I was coming to 
manhood, the half-philosophical novels of the time had a deal 


to say about the young men and maidens who were facing the 
' problem of life.' I had no idea whatever what the problem 
of life was. To live with all my might seemed to me easy ; to 
learn where there was so much to learn seemed pleasant and 
almost of course ; to lend a hand, if one had a chance, natu- 
ral ; and if one did this, why, he enjoyed life because he could 
not help it, and without proving to himself that he ought to en- 
joy it. ... A child who is early taught that he is God's child, 
that he may live and move and have his being in God, and that 
he has, therefore, infinite strength at hand for the conquering 
of any difficulty, will take life more easily, and probably will 
make more of it, than one who is told that he is born the child 
of wrath and wholly incapable of good." * 

One can but recognize in such writers as these the 
presence of a temperament organically weighted on the 
side of cheer and fatally forbidden to linger, as those of 
opposite temperament linger, over the darker aspects of 
the universe. In some individuals optimism may be- 
come quasi-pathological. The capacity for even a tran- 
sient sadness or a momentary humility seems cut off 
from them as by a kind of congenital anaesthesia. 2 

1 Starbuck : Psychology of Eeligion, pp. 305, 306. 

2 " I know not to what physical laws philosophers will some day refer the 
feelings of melancholy. For myself, I find that they are the most volup- 
tuous of all sensations," writes Saint Pierre, and accordingly he devotes a 
series of sections of his work on Nature to the Plaisirs de la Ruine, Plaisirs 
des Tombeaux, Ruines de la Nature, Plaisirs de la Solitude each of them 
more optimistic than the last. 

This finding of a luxury in woe is very common during adolescence. The 
truth-telling Marie Bashkirtseff expresses it well : 

" In this depression and dreadful uninterrupted suffering, I don't con- 
demn life. On the contrary, I like it and find it good. Can you believe it ? 
I find everything good and pleasant, even my tears, my grief. I enjoy 
weeping, I enjoy my despair. I enjoy being exasperated and sad. I feel 
as if these were so many diversions, and I love life in spite of them all. I 
want to live on. It would be cruel to have me die when I am so accommo- 
dating. I cry, I grieve, and at the same time I am pleased no, not 
exactly that I know not how to express it. But everything in life pleases 
me. I find everything agreeable, and in the very midst of my prayers for 


The supreme contemporary example of such an inabil- 
ity to feel evil is of course Walt Whitman. 

" His favorite occupation," writes his disciple, Dr. Bucke, 
" seemed to be strolling- or sauntering about outdoors by him- 
self, looking at the grass, the trees, the flowers, the vistas of 
light, the varying aspects of the sky, and listening to the birds, 
the crickets, the tree frogs, and all the hundreds of natural 
sounds. It was evident that these things gave him a pleasure 
far beyond what they give to ordinary people. Until I knew 
the man," continues Dr. Bucke, " it had not occurred to me 
that any one could derive so much absolute happiness from 
these things as he did. He was very fond of flowers, either wild 
or cultivated ; liked all sorts. I think he admired lilacs and 
sunflowers just as much as roses. Perhaps, indeed, no man 
who ever lived liked so many things and disliked so few as 
Walt Whitman. All natural objects seemed to have a charm 
for him. All sights and sounds seemed to please him. He 
appeared to like (and I believe he did like) all the men, women, 
and children he saw (though I never knew him to say that he 
liked any one), but each who knew him felt that he liked him 
or her, and that he liked others also. I never knew him to argue 
or dispute, and he never spoke about money. He always justi- 
fied, sometimes playfully, sometimes quite seriously, those who 
spoke harshly of himself or his writings, and I often thought 
he even took pleasure in the opposition of enemies. When I 
first knew [him] , I used to think that he watched himself, and 
would not allow his tongue to give expression to fretfulness, an- 
tipathy, complaint, and remonstrance. It did not occur to me 
as possible that these mental states could be absent in him. 
After long observation, however, I satisfied myself that such 
absence or unconsciousness was entirely real. He never spoke 
deprecatingiy of any nationality or class of men, or time in the 
world's history, or against any trades or occupations not even 
against any animals, insects, or inanimate things, nor any of the 

happiness, I find myself happy at being miserable. It is not I who undergo 
all this my body weeps and cries ; but something inside of me which is 
above me is glad of it all." Journal de Marie Bashkirtseff, i. 67. 


laws of nature, nor any of the results of those laws, such as ill- 
ness, deformity, and death. He never complained or grumbled 
either at the weather, pain, illness, or anything else. He never 
swore. He could not very well, since he never spoke in anger 
and apparently never was angry. He never exhibited fear, and 
I do not believe he ever felt it." 1 

Walt Whitman owes his importance in literature to the 
systematic expulsion from his writings of all contractile 
elements. The only sentiments he allowed himself to 
express were of the expansive order ; and he expressed 
these in the first person, not as your mere monstrously 
conceited individual might so express them, but vicari- 
ously for all men, so that a passionate and mystic ontolo- 
gical emotion suffuses his words, and ends by persuading 
the reader that men and women, life and death, and all 
things are divinely good. 

Thus it has come about that many persons to-day 
regard Walt Whitman as the restorer of the eternal natu- 
ral religion. He has infected them with his own love of 
comrades, with his own gladness that he and they exist. 
Societies are actually formed for his cult ; a periodical 
organ exists for its propagation, in which the lines of 
orthodoxy and heterodoxy are already beginning to be 
drawn ; 2 hymns are written by others in his peculiar 
prosody ; and he is even explicitly compared with the 
founder of the Christian religion, not altogether to the 
advantage of the latter. 

Whitman is often spoken of as a ' pagan/ The word 
nowadays means sometimes the mere natural animal man 
without a sense of sin ; sometimes it means a Greek or 
Roman with his own peculiar religious consciousness. In 

1 R. M. Bucke : Cosmic Consciousness, pp. 182-186, abridged. 

2 I refer to The Conservator, edited by Horace Traubel, and published 
monthly at Philadelphia. 


neither of these senses does it fitly define this poet. He 
is more than your mere animal man who has not tasted 
of the tree of good and evil. He is aware enough of sin 
for a swagger to be present in his indifference towards it, 
a conscious pride in his freedom from flexions and con- 
tractions, which your genuine pagan in the first sense of 
the word would never show. 

" I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contained, 
I stand and look at thern long and long ; 
They do not sweat and whine about their condition. 
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins. 
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning 

Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years 

Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth." x 

No natural pagan could have written these well-known 
fines. But on the other hand Whitman is less than a 
Greek or Roman ; for their consciousness, even in Ho- 
meric times, was full to the brim of the sad mortality 
of this sunlit world, and such a consciousness Walt Whit- 
man resolutely refuses to adopt. When, for example, 
Achilles, about to slay Lycaon, Priam's young son, hears 
him sue for mercy, he stops to say : 

" Ah, friend, thou too must die : why thus lamentest thou ? 
Patroclos too is dead, who was better far than thou. . . . 
Over me too hang death and forceful fate. There cometh morn 
or eve or some noonday when my life too some man shall take 
in battle, whether with spear he smite, or arrow from the 
string." - 

Then Achilles savagely severs the poor boy's neck with 
his sword, heaves him by the foot into the Scamander, 
and calls to the fishes of the river to eat the white fat of 
Lycaon. Just as here the cruelty and the sympathy each 

1 Song of Myself, 32. 

2 Iliad, XXI., E. Myers's translation. 


ring true, and do not mix or interfere with one another, 
so did the Greeks and Romans keej} all their sadnesses and 
gladnesses unmingled and entire. Instinctive good they 
did not reckon sin ; nor had they any such desire to save 
the credit of the universe as to make them insist, as so 
many of us insist, that what immediately appears as evil 
must be ' good in the making,' or something equally in- 
genious. Good was good, and bad just bad, for the earlier 
Greeks. They neither denied the ills of nature, Walt 
Whitman's verse, ' What is called good is perfect and 
what is called bad is just as perfect,' would have been 
mere silliness to them, nor did they, in order to escape 
from those ills, invent ' another and a better world ' of the 
imagination, in which, along with the ills, the innocent 
goods of sense would also find no place. This integrity 
of the instinctive reactions, this freedom from all moral 
sophistry and strain, gives a pathetic dignity to ancient 
pagan feeling. And this quality Whitman's outpourings 
have not got. His optimism is too voluntary and defi- 
ant ; his gospel has a touch of bravado and an affected 
twist, 1 and this diminishes its effect on many readers who 
yet are well disposed towards optimism, and on the whole 
quite willing to admit that in important respects Whitman 
is of the genuine lineage of the prophets. 

If, then, we give the name of healthy-mindedness to the 
tendency which looks on all things and sees that they are 
good, we find that we must distinguish between a more 
involuntary and a more voluntary or systematic way of 
being healthy-minded. In its involuntary variety, healthy- 

1 " God is afraid of me ! " remarked such a titanic-optimistic friend in 
my presence one morning when he was feeling particularly hearty and can- 
nibalistic. The defiance of the phrase showed that a Christian education 
in humility still rankled in his breast. 


mindedness is a way of feeling happy about things im- 
mediately. In its systematical variety, it is an abstract 
way of .conceiving things as good. Every abstract way of 
conceiving things selects some one aspect of them as their 
essence for the time being, and disregards the other as- 
pects. Systematic healthy-mindedness, conceiving good as 
the essential and universal aspect of being, deliberately 
excludes evil from its field of vision ; and although, 
when thus nakedly stated, this might seem a difficult feat 
to perform for one who is intellectually sincere with him- 
self and honest about facts, a little reflection shows that 
the situation is too complex to lie open to so simple a 

In the first place, happiness, like every other emotional 
state, has blindness and insensibility to opposing facts 
given it as its instinctive weapon for self-protection 
against disturbance. When happiness is actually in pos- 
session, the thought of evil can no more acquire the feel- 
ing of reality than the thought of good can gain reality 
when melancholy rules. To the man actively happy, 
from whatever cause, evil simply cannot then and there 
be believed in. He must ignore it ; and to the bystander 
he may then seem perversely to shut his eyes to it and 
hush it up. 

But more than this : the hushing of it up may, in a 
perfectly candid and honest mind, grow into a deliberate 
religious policy, or parti pris. Much of what we call 
evil is due entirely to the way men take the phenomenon. 
It can so often be converted into a bracing and tonic 
good by a simple change of the sufferer's inner attitude 
from one of fear to one of fight ; its sting so often de- 
parts and turns into a relish when, after vainly seeking 
to shun it, we agree to face about and bear it cheerfully, 
that a man is simply bound in honor, with reference to 


many of the facts that seem at first to disconcert his 
peace, to adopt this way of escape. Refuse to admit 
their badness ; despise their power ; ignore their pre- 
sence ; turn your attention the other way ; and so far as 
you yourself are concerned at any rate, though the facts 
may still exist, their evil character exists no longer. 
Since you make them evil or good by your own thoughts 
about them, it is the ruling of your thoughts which 
proves to be your principal concern. 

The deliberate adoption of an optimistic turn of mind 
thus makes its entrance into philosophy. And once in, 
it is hard to trace its lawful bounds. Not only does the 
human instinct for happiness, bent on self-protection by 
ignoring, keep working in its favor, but higher inner 
ideals have weighty words to say. The attitude of unhap- 
piness is not only painful, it is mean and ugly. What can 
be more base and unworthy than the pining, puling, 
mumping mood, no matter by what outward ills it may 
have been engendered ? What is more injurious to oth- 
ers ? What less helpful as a way out of the difficulty ? 
It but fastens and perpetuates the trouble which occa- 
sioned it, and increases the total evil of the situation. 
At all costs, then, we ought to reduce the sway of that 
mood ; we ought to scout it in ourselves and others, and 
never show it tolerance. But it is impossible to carry on 
this discipline in the subjective sphere without zealously 
emphasizing the brighter and minimizing the darker as- 
pects of the objective sphere of things at the same time. 
And thus our resolution not to indulge in misery, begin- 
ning at a comparatively small point within ourselves, 
may not stop until it has brought the entire frame of 
reality under a systematic conception optimistic enough 
to be congenial with its needs. 

In all this I say nothing of any mystical insight or 


persuasion that the total frame of things absolutely must 
be good. Such mystical persuasion plays an enormous 
part in the history of the religious consciousness, and 
we must look at it later with some care. But we need 
not go so far at present. More ordinary non-mystical con- 
ditions of rapture suffice for my immediate contention. 
All invasive moral states and passionate enthusiasms 
make one feelingless to evil in some direction. The 
common penalties cease to deter the patriot, the usual 
prudences are flung by the lover to the winds. When 
the passion is extreme, suffering may actually be gloried 
in, provided it be for the ideal cause, death may lose its 
sting, the grave its victory. In these states, the ordinary 
contrast of good and ill seems to be swallowed up in a 
higher denomination, an omnipotent excitement which 
engulfs the evil, and which the human being welcomes 
as the crowning experience of his life. This, he says, is 
truly to live, and I exult in the heroic opportunity and 

The systematic cultivation of healthy-mindedness as a 
religious attitude is therefore consonant with important 
currents in human nature, and is anything but absurd. 
In fact, we all do cultivate it more or less, even when our 
professed theology should in consistency forbid it. We 
divert our attention from disease and death as much as 
we can ; and the slaughter-houses and indecencies with- 
out end on which our life is founded are huddled out of 
sight and never mentioned, so that the world we recog- 
nize officially in literature and in society is a poetic fiction 
far handsomer and cleaner and better than the world that 
really is. 1 

1 " As I go on in this life, day by day, I become more of a bewildered 
child; I cannot get used to this world, to procreation, to heredity, to sight, 
to hearing ; the commonest things are a burthen. The prim, obliterated, 


The advance of liberalism, so-called, in Christianity, 
during the past fifty years, may fairly be called a victory 
of healthy-mindedness within the church over the morbid- 
ness with which the old hell-fire theology was more har- 
moniously related. We have now whole congregations 
whose preachers, far from magnifying our consciousness 
of sin, seem devoted rather to making little of it. They 
ignore, or even deny, eternal punishment, and insist on 
the dignity rather than on the depravity of man. They 
look at the continual preoccupation of the old-fashioned 
Christian with the salvation of his soul as something 
sickly and reprehensible rather than admirable ; and a 
sanguine and ' muscular ' attitude, which to our fore- 
fathers would have seemed purely heathen, has become 
in their eyes an ideal element of Christian character. I 
am not asking whether or not they are right, I am only 
pointing out the change. 

The persons to whom I refer have still retained for the 
most part their nominal connection with Christianity, in 
spite of their discarding of its more pessimistic theologi- 
cal elements. But in that l theory of evolution ' which, 
gathering momentum for a century, has within the past 
twenty-five years swept so rapidly over Europe and Amer- 
ica, we see the ground laid for a new sort of religion of 
Nature, which has entirely displaced Christianity from 
the thought of a large part of our generation. The idea 
of a universal evolution lends itself to a doctrine of gen- 
eral meliorism and progress which fits the religious needs 
of the healthy-minded so well that it seems almost as if 
it might have been created for their use. Accordingly 
we find ' evolutionism ' interpreted thus optimistically and 

polite surface of life, and the broad, bawdy, and orgiastic or msenadic 
foundations, form a spectacle to which no habit reconciles rne." R. L. 
Stevenson : Letters, ii. 355. 


embraced as a substitute for the religion they were born 
in, by a multitude of our contemporaries who have either 
been trained scientifically, or been fond of reading pop- 
ular science, and who had already begun to be inwardly 
dissatisfied with what seemed to them the harshness and 
irrationality of the orthodox Christian scheme. As exam- 
ples are better than descriptions, I will quote a document 
received in answer to Professor Starbuck's circular of ques- 
tions. The writer's state of mind may by courtesy be 
called a religion, for it is his reaction on the whole nature 
of things, it is systematic and reflective, and it loyally 
binds him to certain inner ideals. I think you will recog- 
nize in him, coarse-meated and incapable of wounded 
spirit as he is, a sufficiently familiar contemporary type. 

Q. What does Religion mean to you ? 

A. It means nothing ; and it seems, so far as I can observe, 
useless to others. I am sixty-seven years of age and have re- 
sided in X. fifty years, and have been in business forty-five, 
consequently I have some little experience of life and men, and 
some women too, and I find that the most religious and pious 
people are as a rule those most lacking in uprightness and mo- 
rality. The men who do not go to church or have any religious 
convictions are the best. Praying, singing of hymns, and ser- 
monizing are pernicious they teach us to rely on some super- 
natural power, when we ought to rely on ourselves. I eetotally 
disbelieve in a God. The God-idea was begotten in ignorance, 
fear, and a general lack of any knowledge of Nature. If I were 
to die now, being in a healthy condition for my age, both men- 
tally and physically, I would just as lief, yes, rather, die with a 
hearty enjoyment of music, sport, or any other rational pastime. 
As a timepiece stops, we die there being no immortality in 
either case. 

Q. What comes before your mind corresponding to the 
words God, Heaven, Angels, etc. ? 

A. Nothing whatever. I am a man without a religion. 
These words mean so much mythic bosh. 


Q. Have you had any experiences which appeared provi- 
dential f 

A. None whatever. There is no agency of the superintend- 
ing kind. A little judicious observation as well as knowledge 
of scientific law will convince any one of this fact. 

Q. What things work most strongly on your emotions ? 

A. Lively songs and music ; Pinafore instead of an Oratorio. 
I like Scott, Burns, Byron, Longfellow, especially Shake- 
speare, etc., etc. Of songs, the Star-spangled Banner, America, 
Marseillaise, and all moral and soul-stirring songs, but wishy- 
washy hymns are my detestation. I greatly enjoy nature, 
especially fine weather, and until within a few years used to 
walk Sundays into the country, twelve miles often, with no 
fatigue, and bicycle forty or fifty. I have dropped the bicycle. 
I never go to church, but attend lectures when there are any 
good ones. All of my thoughts and cogitations have been of 
a healthy and cheerful kind, for instead of doubts and fears I 
see things as they are, for I endeavor to adjust myself to my 
environment. This I regard as the deepest law. Mankind 
is a progressive animal. I am satisfied he will have made a 
great advance over his present status a thousand years hence. 

Q. WJiat is your notion of sin ? 

A. It seems to me that sin is a condition, a disease, inciden- 
tal to man's development not being yet advanced enough. 
Morbidness over it increases the disease. We should think 
that a million of years hence equity, justice, and mental and 
physical good order will be so fixed and organized that no one 
will have any idea of evil or sin. 

Q. What is your temperament ? 

A. Nervous, active, wide-awake, mentally and physically. 
Sorry that Nature compels us to sleep at all. 

If we are in search of a broken and a contrite heart, 
clearly we need not look to this brother. His content- 
ment with the finite incases him like a lobster-shell and 
shields him from all morbid repining at his distance from 
the Infinite. We have in him an excellent example of the 
optimism which may be encouraged by popular science. 

Wis- NVnw^-*a^c 


To my mind a current far more important and inter- 
esting religiously than that which sets in from natural 
science towards healthy-mindedness is that which has 
recently poured over America and seems to he gathering 
force every day, I am ignorant what foothold it may 
yet have acquired in Great Britain, and to which, for 
the sake of having a hrief designation, I will give the 
title of the ' Mind-cure movement.' There are various 
sects of this ' New Thought,' to use another of the names 
by which it calls itself ; but their agreements are so pro- 
found that their differences may be neglected for my 
present purpose, and I will treat the movement, without 
apology, as if it were a simple thing. 

It is a deliberately optimistic scheme of life, with both 
a speculative and a practical side. In its gradual develop- 
ment during the last quarter of a century, it has taken 
up into itself a number of contributory elements, and it 
must now be reckoned with as a genuine religious power. 
It has reached the stage, for example, when the demand 
for its literature is great enough for insincere stuff, 
mechanically produced for the market, to be to a certain 
extent supplied by publishers, a phenomenon never 
observed, I imagine, until a religion has got well past 
its earliest insecure beginning's. 

One of the doctrinal sources of Mind-cure is the four 
Gospels; another is Emersonianism or New England tran- 
scendentalism ; another is Berkeleyan idealism ; another 
is spiritism, with its messages of ' law ' and ' progress ' 
and e development ' ; another the optimistic popular sci- 
ence evolutionism of which I have recently spoken ; and, 
finally, Hinduism has contributed a strain. But the 
most characteristic feature of the mind-cure movement 
is an inspiration much more direct. The leaders in this 
faith have had an intuitive belief in the all-saving power 


of healthy-minded attitudes as such, in the conquering 
efficacy of courage, hope, and trust, and a correlative 
contempt for doubt, fear, worry, and all nervously pre- 
cautionary states of mind. 1 Their belief has in a gen- 
eral way been corroborated by the practical experience of 
their disciples ; and this experience forms to-day a mass 
imposing in amount. 

The blind have been made to see, the halt to walk ; 
lifelong invalids have had their health restored. The 
moral fruits have been no less remarkable. The deliber- 
ate adoption of a healthy-minded attitude has proved pos- 
sible to many who never supposed they had it in them ; 
regeneration of character has gone on on an extensive 
scale ; and cheerfulness has been restored to countless 
homes. The indirect influence of this has been great. 
The mind-cure principles are beginning so to pervade 
the air that one catches their spirit at second-hand. 
One hears of the i Gospel of Relaxation,' of the ' Don't 
Worry Movement,' of people who repeat to themselves, 
' Youth, health, vigor ! ' when dressing in the morning, 
as their motto for the day. Complaints of the weather 
are getting to be forbidden in many households ; and 
more and more people are recognizing it to be bad form 
to speak of disagreeable sensations, or to make much of 
the ordinary inconveniences and ailments of life. These 
general tonic effects on public opinion would be good 
even if the more striking results were non-existent. But 
the latter abound so that we can afford to overlook the 

1 ' Cautionary Verses for Children ' : this title of a much used work, pub- 
lished early in the nineteenth century, shows how far the muse of evangelical 
protestantism in England, with her mind fixed on the idea of danger, had 
at last drifted away from the original gospel freedom. Mind-cure might 
be briefly called a reaction against all that religion of chronic anxiety which 
marked the earlier part of our century in the evangelical circles of England 
and America. 


innumerable failures and self-deceptions that are mixed 
in with them (for in everything human failure is a matter 
of course), and we can also overlook the verbiage of a 
good deal of the mind-cure literature, some of which is 
so moonstruck with optimism and so vaguely expressed 
that an academically trained intellect finds it almost im- 
possible to read it at all. 

The plain fact remains that the spread of the move- 
ment has been due to practical fruits, and the extremely 
practical turn of character of the American people has 
never been better shown than by the fact that this, their 
only decidedly original contribution to the systematic 
philosophy of life, should be so intimately knit up with 
concrete therapeutics. To the importance of mind-cure 
the medical and clerical professions in the United States 
are beginning, though with much recalcitrancy and pro- 
testing, to open their eyes. It is evidently bound to 
develop still farther, both speculatively and practically, 
and its latest writers are far and away the ablest of the 
group. 1 It matters nothing that, just as there are hosts 
of persons who cannot pray, so there are greater hosts 
who cannot by any possibility be influenced by the mind- 
curers' ideas. For our immediate purpose, the important 
point is that so large a number should exist who can be 
so influenced. They form a psychic type to be studied 
with respect. 2 

1 I refer to Mr. Horatio W. Dresser and Mr. Henry Wood, especially the 
former. Mr. Dresser's works are published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, New 
York and London ; Mr. Wood's by Lee & Shepard, Boston. 

2 Lest my own testimony be suspected, I will quote another reporter, Dr. 
H. H. Goddard, of Clark University, whose thesis on "the Effects of Mind 
on Body as evidenced by Faith Cures " is published in the American Jour- 
nal of Psychology for 1899 (vol. x.). This critic, after a wide study of the 
facts, concludes that the cures by mind-cure exist, but are in no respect 
different from those now officially recognized in medicine as cures by sug- 
gestion ; and the end of his essay contains an interesting physiological 


To come now to a little closer quarters with their 
creed. The fundamental pillar on which it rests is 
nothing more than the general basis of all religious 
experience, the fact that man has a dual nature, and is 
connected with two spheres of thought, a shallower and 
a profounder sphere, in either of which he may learn to 
live more habitually. The shallower and lower sphere is 
that of the fleshly sensations, instincts, and desires, of 
egotism, doubt, and the lower personal interests. But 
whereas Christian theology has always considered fro- 

speculation as to the way in which the suggestive ideas may work (p. 67 of 
the reprint). As regards the general phenomenon of mental cure itself, 
Dr. Goddard writes : " In spite of the severe criticism we have made of 
reports of cure, there still remains a vast amount of material, showing a 
powerful influence of the mind in disease. Many cases are of diseases that 
have been diagnosed and treated by the best physicians of the country, or 
which prominent hospitals have tried their hand at curing, but without suc- 
cess. People of culture and education have been treated by this method 
with satisfactory results. Diseases of long standing have been ameliorated, 
and even cured. . . . We have traced the mental element through primi- 
tive medicine and folk-medicine of to-day, patent medicine, and witchcraft. 
We are convinced that it is impossible to account for the existence of these 
practices, if they did not cure disease, and that if they cured disease, it 
must have been the mental element that was effective. The same argu- 
ment applies to those modern schools of mental therapeutics Divine 
Healing and Christian Science. It is hardly conceivable that the large body 
of intelligent people who comprise the body known distinctively as Mental 
Scientists should continue to exist if the whole thing were a delusion. It is 
not a thing of a day ; it is not confined to a few ; it is not local. It is true 
that many failures are recorded, but that only adds to the argument. There 
must be many and striking successes to counterbalance the failures, other- 
wise the failures would have ended the delusion. . . . Christian Science, 
Divine Healing, or Mental Science do not, and never can in the very nature 
of things, cure all diseases ; nevertheless, the practical applications of the 
general principles of the broadest mental science will tend to prevent 
disease. . . . We do find sufficient evidence to convince us that the proper 
reform in mental attitude would relieve many a sufferer of ills that the 
ordinary physician cannot touch ; would even delay the approach of death 
to many a victim beyond the power of absolute cure, and the faithful 
adherence to a truer philosophy of life will keep many a man well, and 
give the doctor time to devote to alleviating ills that are unpreventable " 
(pp. 33, 34 of reprint). 

V^OOV - ^WO^N^-W ^ 


wardness to be the essential vice of this part of human 
nature, the rnind-curers say that the mark of the beast 
in it is fear ; and this is what gives such an entirely new 
religious turn to their persuasion. 

" Fear," to quote a writer of the school, " has had its uses in 
the evolutionary process, and seems to constitute the whole of 
forethought in most animals ; but that it should remain any 
part of the mental equipment of human civilized life is an 
absurdity. I find that the fear element of forethought is not 
stimulating to those more civilized persons to whom duty and 
attraction are the natural motives, but is weakening and deter- 
rent. As soon as it becomes unnecessary, fear becomes a posi- 
tive deterrent, and should be entirely removed, as dead flesh is 
removed from living tissue. To assist in the analysis of fear, 
and in the denunciation of its expressions, I have coined the 
word fearthought to stand for the unprofitable element of fore- 
thought, and have defined the word ' worry ' as fearthought in 
contradistinction to forethought. I have also defined fear- 
thought as the self-imposed or self permitted suggestion of 
inferiority, in order to place it where it really belongs, in the 
category of harmful, unnecessary, and therefore not respectable 
things." : 

The c misery-habit,' the i martyr-habit,' engendered by 
the prevalent ' fearthought,' get pungent criticism from 
the mind-cure writers : 

" Consider for a moment the habits of life into which we are 
born. There are certain social conventions or customs and 
alleged requirements, there is a theological bias, a general view 
of the world. There are conservative ideas in regard to our 
early training, our education, marriage, and occupation in life. 
Following close upon this, there is a long series of anticipations, 
namely, that we shall suffer certain children's diseases, diseases 
of middle life, and of old age ; the thought that we shall grow 

1 Horace Fletcher : Happiness as found in Forethought minus Fear- 
thought, Menticulture Series, ii. Chicago and New York, Stone, 1897, pp. 
21-25, abridged. 


old, lose our faculties, and again become childlike ; while crown- 
ing- all is the fear of death. Then there is a long: line of 
particular fears and trouble-bearing expectations, such, for 
example, as ideas associated with certain articles of food, the 
dread of the east wind, the terrors of hot weather, the aches 
and pains associated with cold weather, the fear of catching 
cold if one sits in a draught, the coming of hay-fever upon the 
14th of August in the middle of the day, and so on through 
a long list of fears, dreads, worriments, anxieties, anticipations, 
expectations, pessimisms, morbidities, and the whole ghostly 
train of fateful shapes which our fellow-men, and especially 
physicians, are ready to help us conjure up, an array worthy to 
rank with Bradley's ' unearthly ballet of bloodless categories.' 

" Yet this is not all. This vast array is swelled by innumer- 
able volunteers from daily life, the fear of accident, the pos- 
sibility of calamity, the loss of property, the chance of robbery, 
of fire, or the outbreak of war. And it is not deemed sufficient 
to fear for ourselves. When a friend is taken ill, we must 
forthwith fear the worst and apprehend death. If one meets 
with sorrow . . . sympathy means to enter into and increase 
the suffering." J 

" Man," to quote another writer, " often has fear stamped 
upon him before his entrance into the outer world ; he is reared 
in fear ; all his life is passed in bondage to fear of disease and 
death, and thus his whole mentality becomes cramped, limited, 
and depressed, and his body follows its shrunken pattern and 
specification. . . . Think of the millions of sensitive and respon- 
sive souls among our ancestors who have been under the domin- 
ion of such a perpetual nightmare ! Is it not surprising that 
health exists at all? Nothing but the boundless divine love, 
exuberance, and vitality, constantly poured in, even though 
unconsciously to us, could in some degree neutralize such an 
ocean of morbidity." 2 

Although the disciples of the mind-cure often use 
Christian terminology, one sees from such quotations 

1 H. W. Dresser : Voices of Freedom, New York, 1899, p. 38. 

2 Henry Wood : Ideal Suggestion through Mental Photography, Boston, 
1899, p. 54. 


how widely their notion of the fall of man diverges from 
that of ordinary Christians. 1 

Their notion of man's higher nature is hardly less 
divergent, being decidedly pantheistic. The spiritual in 
man appears in the mind-cure philosophy as partly con- 
scious, but chiefly subconscious ; and through the sub- 
conscious part of it we are already one with the Divine 
without any miracle of grace, or abrupt creation of a 
new inner man. As this view is variously expressed by 
different writers, we find in it traces of Christian mysti- 
cism, of transcendental idealism, of vedantism, and of 
the modern psychology of the subliminal self. A quota- 
tion or two will put us at the central point of view : 

" The great central fact of the universe is that spirit of infi- 
nite life and power that is back of all, that manifests itself in 
and through all. This spirit of infinite life and power that is 
back of all is what 1 call God. I care not what term you may 
use, be it Kindly Light, Providence, the Over-Soul, Omnipo- 

1 Whether it differs so much from Christ's own notion is for the exeget- 
ists to decide. According to Harnack, Jesus felt about evil and disease 
much as our mind-curers do. " What is the answer which Jesus sends to 
John the Baptist ? " asks Harnack, and says it is this : " ' The blind see, 
and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead rise 
up, and the gospel is preached to the poor.' That is the ' coming of the 
kingdom,' or rather in these saving works the kingdom is already there. 
By the overcoming and removal of misery, of need, of sickness, by these 
actual effects John is to see that the new time has arrived. The casting 
out of devils is only a part of this work of redemption, but Jesus points to 
that as the sense and seal of his mission. Thus to the wretched, sick, and 
poor did he address himself, but not as a moralist, and without a trace of 
sentimentalism. He never makes groups and departments of the ills ; he 
never spends time in asking whether the sick one ' deserves ' to be cured ; 
and it never occurs to him to sympathize with the pain or the death. He 
nowhere says that sickness is a beneficent infliction, and that evil has a 
healthy use. No, he calls sickness sickness and health health. All evil, 
all wretchedness, is for him something dreadful ; it is of the great kingdom 
of Satan ; but he feels the power of the Saviour within him. He knows 
that advance is possible only when weakness is overcome, when sickness is 
made well." Das Wesen des Christenthums, 1900, p. 39. 


tence, or whatever term may be most convenient, so long as we 
are agreed in regard to the great central fact itself. God then 
fills the universe alone, so that all is from Him and in Him, 
and there is nothing that is outside. He is the life of our life, 
our very life itself. We are partakers of the life of God ; and 
though we differ from Him in that we are individualized spirits, 
while He is the Infinite Spirit, including us, as well as all else 
beside, yet in essence the life of God and the life of man are 
identically the same, and so are one. They differ not in essence 
or quality ; they differ in degree. 

" The great central fact in human life is the coming into a 
conscious vital realization of our oneness with this Infinite Life, 
and the opening of ourselves fully to this divine inflow. In 
just the degree that we come into a conscious realization of our 
oneness with the Infinite Life, and open ourselves to this divine 
inflow, do we actualize in ourselves the qualities and powers 
of the Infinite Life, do we make ourselves channels through 
which the Infinite Intelligence and Power can work. In just 
the degree in which you realize your oneness with the Infinite 
Spirit, you will exchange dis-ease for ease, in harmony for har- 
mony, suffering and pain for abounding health and strength. 
To recognize our own divinity, and our intimate relation to the 
Universal, is to attach the belts of our machinery to the power- 
house of the Universe. One need remain in hell no longer than 
one chooses to ; we can rise to any heaven we ourselves choose ; 
and when we choose so to rise, all the higher powers of the 
Universe combine to help us heavenward." * 

Let me now pass from these abstracter statements to 
some more concrete accounts of experience with the 
mind-cure religion. I have many answers from corre- 
spondents the only difficulty is to choose. The first 
two whom I shall quote are my personal friends. One of 
them, a woman, writing as follows, expresses well the 
feeling of continuity with the Infinite Power, by which 
all mind-cure disciples are inspired. 

1 R. W. Trine: In Tune with the Infinite, 26th thousand, N. Y., 1899. 
I have strung scattered passages together. 


" The first underlying cause of all sickness, weakness, or 
depression is the human sense of separateness from that 
Divine Energy which we call God. The soul which can feel 
and affirm in serene but jubilant confidence, as did the Naza- 
rene : ' I and my Father are one,' has no further need of healer, 
or of healing. This is the whole truth in a nutshell, and other 
foundation for wholeness can no man lay than this fact of 
impregnable divine union. Disease can no longer attack one 
whose feet are planted on this rock, who feels hourly, momently, 
the influx of the Deific Breath. If one with Omnipotence, how 
can weariness enter the consciousness, how illness assail that 
indomitable spark ? 

" This possibility of annulling forever the law of fatigue has 
been abundantly proven in my own case ; for my earlier life 
bears a record of many, many years of bedridden invalidism, 
with spine and lower limbs paralyzed. My thoughts were no 
more impure than they are to-day, although my belief in the 
necessity of illness was dense and unenlightened ; but since my 
resurrection in the flesh, I have worked as a healer unceasingly 
for fourteen years without a vacation, and can truthfully assert 
that I have never known a moment of fatigue or pain, although 
coming in touch constantly with excessive weakness, illness, and 
disease of all kinds. For how can a conscious part of Deity be 
sick ? since ' Greater is he that is with us than all that can 
strive against us.' " 

My second correspondent, also a woman, sends me the 
following statement : 

" Life seemed difficult to me at one time. I was always break- 
ing down, and had several attacks of what is called nervous 
prostration, with terrible insomnia, being on the verge of insan- 
ity ; besides having many other troubles, especially of the 
digestive organs. I had been sent away from home in charge 
of doctors, had taken all the narcotics, stopped all work, been 
fed up, and in fact knew all the doctors within reach. But 
I never recovered permanently till this New Thought took pos- 
session of me. 

" I think that the one thing which impressed me most was 


learning the fact that we must be irr absolutely constant relation 
or mental touch (this word is to me very expressive) with that 
essence of life which permeates all and which we call God. 
This is almost unrecognizable unless we live it into ourselves 
actually, that is, by a constant turning to the very innermost, 
deepest consciousness of our real selves or of God in us, for 
illumination from within, just as we turn to the sun for light, 
warmth, and invigoration without. When you do this con- 
sciously, realizing that to turn inward to the light within you 
is to live in the presence of God or your divine self, you soon 
discover the unreality of the objects to which you have hitherto 
been turning and which have engrossed you without. 

" I have come to disregard the meaning of this attitude for 
bodily health as such, because that comes of itself, as an inci- 
dental result, and cannot be found by any special mental act or 
desire to have it, beyond that general attitude of mind I have 
referred to above. That which we usually make the object of 
life, those outer things we are all so wildly seeking, which we 
so often live and die for, but which then do not give us peace 
and happiness, they should all come of themselves as accessory, 
and as the mere outcome or natural result of a far higher life 
sunk deep in the bosom of the spirit. This life is the real seek- 
ing of the kingdom of God, the desire for his supremacy in our 
hearts, so that all else comes as that which shall be ' added 
unto you ' as quite incidental and as a surprise to us, per- 
haps ; and yet it is the proof of the reality of the perfect poise 
in the very centre of our being. 

" When I say that we commonly make the object of our life 
that which we should not work for primarily, I mean many 
things which the world considers praiseworthy and excellent, 
such as success in business, fame as author or artist, physician 
or lawyer, or renown in philanthropic undertakings. Such 
things should be results, not objects. I would also include 
pleasures of many kinds which seem harmless and good at the 
time, and are pursued because many accept them I mean 
conventionalities, sociabilities, and fashions in their various de- 
velopment, these being mostly approved by the masses, although 
they may be unreal, and even unhealthy superfluities." 


Here is another case, more concrete, also that of a 
woman. I read you these cases without comment, they 
express so many varieties of the state of mind we are 

" I had been a sufferer from my childhood till my fortieth 
year. [Details of ill-health are given which I omit.] I had 
been in Vermont several months hoping for good from the 
change of air, but steadily growing weaker, when one day dur- 
ing the latter part of October, while resting in the afternoon, 
I suddenly heard as it were these words : ' You will be healed 
and do a work you never dreamed of.' These words were 
impressed upon my mind with such power I said at once that 
only God could have put them there. I believed them in spite 
of myself and of my suffering and weakness, which continued 
until Christmas, when I returned to Boston. Within two 
days a young friend offered to take me to a mental healer (this 
was January 7, 1881). The healer said : ' There is nothing 
but Mind ; we are expressions of the One Mind ; body is only 
a mortal belief ; as a man thinketh so is he.' I could not ac- 
cept all she said, but I translated all that was there for me in 
this way : ' There is nothing but God ; I am created by Him, 
and am absolutely dependent upon Him ; mind is given me to 
use ; and by just so much of it as I will put upon the thought 
of right action in body I shall be lifted out of bondage to my 
ignorance and fear and past experience.' That day I com- 
menced accordingly to take a little of every food provided for 
the family, constantly saying to myself : * The Power that cre- 
ated the stomach must take care of what I have eaten.' By 
holding these suggestions through the evening I went to bed 
and fell asleep, saying : ' I am soul, spirit, just one with God's 
Thought of me,' and slept all night without waking, for the first 
time in several years [the distress-turns had usually recurred 
about two o'clock in the night]. I felt the next day like an 
escaped prisoner, and believed I had found the secret that 
would in time give me perfect health. Within ten days I was 
able to eat anything provided for others, and after two weeks 
I began to have my own positive mental suggestions of Truth, 


which were to me like stepping-stones. I will note a few of 
them ; they came about two weeks apart. 

" 1st. I am Soul, therefore it is well with me. 

" 2d. I am Soul, therefore I am well. 

" 3d. A sort of inuer vision of myself as a four-footed beast 
with a protuberance on every part of my body where I had 
suffering, with my own face, begging me to acknowledge it as 
myself. I resolutely fixed my attention on being well, and 
refused to even look at my old self in this form. 

" 4th. Again the vision of the beast far in the background, 
with faint voice. Again refusal to acknowledge. 

" 5th. Once more the vision, but only of my eyes with the 
longing look ; and again the refusal. Then came the convic- 
tion, the inner consciousness, that I was perfectly well and al- 
ways had been, for I was Soul, an expression of God's Perfect 
Thought. That was to me the perfect and completed separa- 
tion between what I was and what I appeared to be. I suc- 
ceeded in never losing sight after this of my real being, by 
constantly affirming this truth, and by degrees (though it took 
me two years of hard work to get there) / expressed health 
continuously throughout my whole body. 

" In my subsequent nineteen years' experience I have never 
known this Truth to fail when I applied it, though in my igno- 
rance I have often failed to apply it, but through my failures I 
have learned the simplicity and trustfulness of the little child." 

But I fear that I risk tiring you by so many examples, 
and I must lead you back to philosophic generalities again. 
You see already by such records of experience how im- 
possible it is not to class mind-cure as primarily a re- 
ligious movement. Its doctrine of the oneness of our 
life with God's life is in fact quite indistinguishable from 
an interpretation of Christ's message which in these very 
Gifford lectures has been defended by some of your very 
ablest Scottish religious philosophers. 1 

1 The Cairds, for example. In Edward Caird's Glasgow Lectures of 
1890-92 passages like this abound : 

" The declaration made in the beginning of the ministry of Jesus that 


But philosophers usually profess to give a quasi-logical 
explanation of the existence of evil, whereas of the gen- 
eral fact of evil in the world, the existence of the selfish, 
suffering, timorous finite consciousness, the mind-curers, 
so far as I am acquainted with them, profess to give no 
speculative explanation. Evil is empirically there for 
them as it is for everybody, but the practical point of 
view predominates, and it would ill agree with the spirit 
of their system to spend time in worrying over it as a 
' mystery ' or ' problem,' or in ' laying to heart ' the les- 
son of its experience, after the manner of the Evangeli- 
cals. Don't reason about it, as Dante says, but give a 
glance and pass beyond ! It is Avidhya, ignorance ! 
something merely to be outgrown and left behind, tran- 
scended and forgotten. Christian Science so-called, the 
sect of Mrs. Eddy, is the most radical branch of mind- 
cure in its dealings with evil. For it evil is simply a lie, 

'the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of heaven is at hand,' passes with 
scarce a break into the announcement that ' the kingdom of God is among 
you ' ; and the importance of this announcement is asserted to be such that 
it makes, so to speak, a difference in kind between the greatest saints and 
prophets who lived under the previous reign of division, and ' the least in 
the kingdom of heaven.' The highest ideal is brought close to men and 
declared to be within their reach, they are called on to be ' perfect as their 
Father in heaven is perfect.' The sense of alienation and distance from 
God which had grown upon the pious in Israel just in proportion as they 
had learned to look upon Him as no mere national divinity, but as a God 
of justice who would punish Israel for its sin as certainly as Edom or Moab, 
is declared to be no longer in place ; and the typical form of Christian 
prayer points to the abolition of the contrast between this world and the 
next which through all the history of the Jews had continually been grow- 
ing wider : ' As in heaven, so on earth.' The sense of the division of man 
from God, as a finite being from the Infinite, as weak and sinful from the 
Omnipotent Goodness, is not indeed lost ; but it can no longer overpower 
the consciousness of oneness. The terms ' Son ' and ' Father ' at once state 
the opposition and mark its limit. They show that it is not an absolute 
opposition, but one which presupposes an indestructible principle of unity, 
that can and must become a principle of reconciliation." The Evolution of 
Religion, ii. pp. 14G, 147. 


and any one who mentions it is a liar. The optimistic 
ideal of duty forbids us to pay it the compliment even of 
explicit attention. Of course, as our next lectures will 
show us, this is a bad speculative omission, but it is 
intimately linked with the practical merits of the system 
we are examining. Why regret a philosophy of evil, a 
mind-curer would ask us, if I can put you in possession 
of a life of good ? 

After all, it is the life that tells ; and mind-cure has 
developed a living system of mental hygiene which may 
well claim to have thrown all previous literature of the 
Diatetik der Seele into the shade. This system is wholly 
and exclusively compacted of optimism : i Pessimism leads 
to weakness. Optimism leads to power.' ' Thoughts 
are things,' as one of the most vigorous mind-cure writ- 
ers prints in bold type at the bottom of each of his pages ; 
and if your thoughts are of health, youth, vigor, and suc- 
cess, before you know it these things will also be your 
outward portion. No one can fail of the regenerative 
influence of optimistic thinking, pertinaciously pursued. 
Every man owns indefeasibly this inlet to the divine. 
Fear, on the contrary, and all the contracted and egoistic 
modes of thought, are inlets to destruction. Most mind- 
curers here bring in a doctrine that thoughts are ' forces,' 
and that, by virtue of a law that like attracts like, one 
man's thoughts draw to themselves as allies all the 
thoughts of the same character that exist the world over. 
Thus one gets, by one's thinking, reinforcements from 
elsewhere for the realization of one's desires ; and the 
great point in the conduct of life is to get the heavenly 
forces on one's side by opening one's own mind to their 

On the whole, one is struck by a psychological similar- 
ity between the mind-cure movement and the Lutheran 


and Wesleyan movements. To the believer in moralism 
and works, with his anxious query, ' What shall I do to 
be saved ? ' Luther and Wesley replied : ' You are saved 
now, if you would but believe it.' And the mind-curers 
come with precisely similar words of emancipation. They 
speak, it is true, to persons for whom the conception of 
salvation has lost its ancient theological meaning 1 , but who 
labor nevertheless with the same eternal human difficulty. 
Things are wrong with them; and 'What shall I do to 
be clear, right, sound, whole, well ? ' is the form of their 
question. And the answer is : ' You are well, sound, 
and clear already, if you did but know it.' " The whole 
matter may be summed up in one sentence," says one of 
the authors whom I have already quoted, " God is well, 
and so are you. You must awaken to the knowledge of 
your real being." 

The adequacy of their message to the mental needs of 
a large fraction of mankind is what gave force to those 
earlier gospels. Exactly the same adequacy holds in the 
case of the mind-cure message, foolish as it may sound 
upon its surface ; and seeing its rapid growth in influ- 
ence, and its therapeutic triumphs, one is tempted to ask 
whether it may not be destined (probably by very reason 
of the crudity and extravagance of many of its manifes- 
tations *) to play a part almost as great in the evolution 
of the popular religion of the future as did those earlier 
movements in their day. 

But I here fear that I may begin to ' jar upon the 
nerves ' of some of the members of this academic audi- 
ence. Such contemporary vagaries, you may think, 

1 It remains to be seen whether the school of Mr. Dresser, which assumes 
more and more the form of mind-cure experience and academic philosophy 
mutually impregnating each other, will score the practical triumphs of the 
less critical and rational sects. 


should hardly take so large a place in dignified Gifford 
lectures. I can only beseech you to have patience. The 
whole outcome of these lectures will, I imagine, be the 
emphasizing to your mind of the enormous diversities 
which the spiritual lives of different men exhibit. Their 
wants, their susceptibilities, and their capacities all vary 
and must be classed under different heads. The result 
is that we have really different types of religious expe- 
rience ; and, seeking in these lectures closer acquaint- 
ance with the healthy-minded type, we must take it where 
we find it in most radical form. The psychology of in- 
dividual types of character has hardly begun even to be 
sketched as yet our lectures may possibly serve as a 
crumb-like contribution to the structure. The first thing 
to bear in mind (especially if we ourselves belong to the 
clerico-academic-scientific type, the officially and conven- 
tionally ' correct ' type, i the deadly respectable ' type, for 
which to ignore others is a besetting temptation) is that 
nothing can be more stupid than to bar out phenomena 
from our notice, merely because we are incapable of tak- 
ing part in anything like them ourselves. 

Now the history of Lutheran salvation by faith, of 
methodistic conversions, and of what I call the mind-cure 
movement seems to prove the existence of numerous per- 
sons in whom at any rate at a certain stage in their 
development a change of character for the better, so 
far from being facilitated by the rules laid down by offi- 
cial moralists, will take place all the more successfully if 
those rules be exactly reversed. Official moralists advise 
us never to relax our strenuousness. " Be vigilant, day 
and night," they adjure us ; " hold your passive tenden- 
cies in check ; shrink from no effort ; keep your will like 
a bow always bent." But the persons I speak of find 
that all this conscious effort leads to nothing but failure 


and vexation in their hands, and only makes them two- 
fold more the children of hell they were before. The 
tense and voluntary attitude becomes in them an impos- 
sible fever and torment. Their machinery refuses to run 
at all when the bearings are made so hot and the belts 
are so tightened. 

Under these circumstances the way to success, as 
vouched for by innumerable authentic personal narra- 
tions, is by an anti-moralistic method, by the ' surrender ' 
of which I spoke in my second lecture. Passivity, not 
activity ; relaxation, not intentness, should be now the 
rule. Give up the feeling of responsibility, let go your 
hold, resign the care of your destiny to higher powers, 
be genuinely indifferent as to what becomes of it all, and 
you will find not only that you gain a perfect inward re- 
lief, but often also, in addition, the particular goods you 
sincerely thought you were renouncing. This is the sal- 
vation through self-despair, the dying to be truly born, 
of Lutheran theology, the passage into nothing of which 
Jacob Behmen writes. To get to it, a critical point must 
usually be passed, a corner turned within one. Some- 
thing must give way, a native hardness must break down 
and liquefy ; and this event (as we shall abundantly see 
hereafter) is frequently sudden and automatic, and leaves 
on the Subject an impression that he has been wrought 
on by an external power. 

Whatever its ultimate significance may prove to be, 
this is certainly one fundamental form of human expe- 
rience. Some say that the capacity or incapacity for it 
is what divides the religious from the merely moralistic 
character. With those who undergo it in its fullness, no 
criticism avails to cast doubt on its reality. They know ; 
for they have actually felt the higher powers, in giving 
up the tension of their personal will. 


A story which revivalist preachers often tell is that of 
a man who found himself at night slipping down the side 
of a precipice. At last he caught a branch which stopped 
his fall, and remained clinging to it in misery for hours. 
But finally his fingers had to loose their hold, and with a 
despairing farewell to life, he let himself drop. He fell 
just six inches. If he had given up the struggle earlier, 
his agony would have been spared. As the mother earth 
received him, so, the preachers tell us, will the everlasting 
arms receive us if we confide absolutely in them, and 
give up the hereditary habit of relying on our personal 
strength, with its precautions that cannot shelter and 
safeguards that never save. 

The mind-curers have given the widest scope to this 
sort of experience. They have demonstrated that a form 
of regeneration by relaxing, by letting go, psychologically 
indistinguishable from the Lutheran justification by faith 
and the Wesleyan acceptance of free grace, is within 
the reach of persons who have no conviction of sin and 
care nothing for the Lutheran theology. It is but giving 
your little private convulsive self a rest, and finding that 
a greater Self is there. The results, slow or sudden, or 
great or small, of the combined optimism and expectancy, 
the regenerative phenomena which ensue on the abandon- 
ment of effort, remain firm facts of human nature, no 
matter whether we adopt a theistic, a pantheistic-idealis- 
tic, or a medical-materialistic view of their ultimate causal 
explanation. 1 

1 The theistic explanation is by divine grace, which creates a new nature 
within one the moment the old nature is sincerely given up. The pantheis- 
tic explanation (which is that of most mind-curers) is by the merging of 
the narrower private self into the wider or greater self, the spirit of the 
universe (which is your own ' subconscious ' self), the moment the isolating 
barriers of mistrust and anxiety are removed. The medico-materialistic 
explanation is that simpler cerebral processes act more freely where they 
are left to act automatically by the shunting-out of physiologically (though 


When we take up the phenomena of revivalistic con- 
version, we shall learn something more about all this. 
Meanwhile I will say a brief word about the mind-curer's 

They are of course largely suggestive. The sugges- 
tive influence of environment plays an enormous part 
in all spiritual education. But the word ' suggestion,' 
having acquired official status, is unfortunately already 
beginning to play in many quarters the part of a wet 
blanket upon investigation, being used to fend off all 
inquiry into the varying susceptibilities of individual 
cases. ' Suggestion ' is only another name for the power 
of ideas, so far as they prove efficacious over belief and 
conduct. Ideas efficacious over some people prove ineffi- 
cacious over others. Ideas efficacious at some times and 
in some human surroundings are not so at other times 
and elsewhere. The ideas of Christian churches are not 
efficacious in the therapeutic direction to-day, whatever 
they may have been in earlier centuries ; and when the 
whole question is as to why the salt has lost its savor 
here or gained it there, the mere blank waving of the 
word ' suggestion ' as if it were a banner gives no light. 
Dr. Goddard, whose candid psychological essay on Faith 
Cures ascribes them to nothing but ordinary suggestion, 
concludes by saying that " Religion [and by this he 
seems to mean our popular Christianity] has in it all 
there is in mental therapeutics, and has it in its best 
form. Living up to [our religious] ideas will do any- 
thing for us that can be done." And this in spite of 
the actual fact that the popular Christianity does abso- 

in this instance not spiritually) ' higher ' ones which, seeking to regulate, 
only succeed in inhibiting results. Whether this third explanation might, 
in a psycho-physical account of the universe, be combined with either of the 
others may be left an open question here. 

Sn-aA**^'"*"- d*i(iv>.L 


lutely nothing, or did nothing until mind-cure came to 
the rescue. 1 

An idea, to be suggestive, must come to the individual 
with the force of a revelation. The mind-cure with its 
gospel of healthy-mindedness has come as a revelation 
to many whose hearts the church Christianity had left 
hardened. It has let loose their springs of higher life. 

1 Within the churches a disposition has always prevailed to regard sick- 
ness as a visitation ; something sent hy God for our good, either as chastise- 
ment, as warning, or as opportunity for exercising virtue, and, in the Catho- 
lic Church, of earning ' merit.' " Illness," says a good Catholic writer (P. 
Le.teune : Introd. a la Vie Mystique, 1899, p. 218), " is the most excellent of 
corporeal mortifications, the mortification which one has not one's self chosen, 
which is imposed directly by God, and is the direct expression of his will. 
1 If other mortifications are of silver,' Mgr. Gay says, ' this one is of gold ; 
since although it comes of ourselves, coming as it does of original sin, still 
on its greater side, as coming (like all that happens) from the providence 
of God, it is of divine manufacture. And how just are its blows ! And 
how efficacious it is ! ... I do not hesitate to say that patience in a long 
illness is mortification's very masterpiece, and consequently the triumph of 
mortified souls.' ' According to this view, disease should iu any case be 
submissively accepted, and it might under certain circumstances even be 
blasphemous to wish it away. 

Of course there have been exceptions to this, and cures by special miracle 
have at all times been recognized within the church's pale, almost all the 
great saints having more or less performed them. It was one of the here- 
sies of Edward Irving, to maintain them still to be possible. An extremely 
pure faculty of healing after confession and conversion on the patient's 
part, and prayer on the priest's, was quite spontaneously developed in the 
German pastor, Job. Christoph Blumhardt, in the early forties and exerted 
during nearly thirty years. Blumhardt's Life by Ziindel (oth edition, 
Zurich, 1887) gives in chapters ix., x., xi., and xvii. a pretty full account 
of his healing activity, which he invariably ascribed to direct divine inter- 
position. Blumhardt was a singularly pure, simple, and non-fanatical char- 
acter, and in this part of his work followed no previous model. In Chicago 
to-day we have the case of Dr. J. A. Dowie, a Scottish Baptist preacher, 
whose weekly ' Leaves of Healing ' were in the year of grace 1900 in their 
sixth volume, and who, although he denounces the cures wrought in other 
sects as ' diabolical counterfeits ' of his own exclusively ' Divine Healing,' 
must on the whole be counted into the mind-cure movement. In mind-cure 
circles the fundamental article of faith is that disease should never be 
accepted. It is wholly of the pit. God wants us to be absolutely healthy, 
and we should not tolerate ourselves on any lower terms. 


In what can the originality of any religious movement 
consist, save in finding a channel, until then sealed up, 
through which those springs may be set free in some 
group of human beings ? 

The force of personal faith, enthusiasm, and example, 
and above all the force of novelty, are always the prime 
suggestive agency in this kind of success. If mind-cure 
shoidd ever become official, respectable, and intrenched, 
these elements of suggestive efficacy will be lost. In its 
acuter stages every religion must be a homeless Arab of 
the desert. The church knows this well enough, with 
its everlasting inner struggle of the acute religion of the 
few against the chronic religion of the many, indurated 
into an obstructiveness worse than that which irreliffion 
opposes to the movings of the Spirit. " We may pray," 
says Jonathan Edwards, " concerning all those saints 
that are not lively Christians, that they may either be 
enlivened, or taken away ; if that be true that is often 
said by some at this day, that these cold dead saints do 
more hurt than natural men, and lead more souls to hell, 
and that it would be well for mankind if they were all 
dead." ' 

The next condition of success is the apparent exist- 
ence, in large numbers, of minds who unite healthy- 
mindedness with readiness for regeneration by letting go. 
Protestantism has been too pessimistic as regards the 
natural man, Catholicism has been too legalistic and 
moralistic, for either the one or the other to appeal in 
any generous way to the type of character formed of this 
peculiar mingling of elements. However few of us here 
present may belong to such a type, it is now evident that 

1 Edwards, from whose book on the Revival in New England I quote 
these words, dissuades from such a use of prayer, but it is easy to see that 
he enjoys making his thrust at the cold dead church members. 

O vx\} Clow 5 C\ OV^S \\54^ ' Vc-5-fc m^. vU\o . <?Us fr*| 


it forms a specific moral combination, well represented in 
the world. 

Finally, mind-cure has made what in our protestant 
countries is an unprecedented^ great use of the subcon- 
scious life. To their reasoned advice and dogmatic 
assertion, its founders have added systematic exercise in 
passive relaxation, concentration, and meditation, and 
have even invoked something like hypnotic practice. I 
quote some passages at random : 

" The value, the potency of ideals is the great practical truth 
on which the New Thought most strongly insists, the devel- 
opment namely from within outward, from small to great. 1 
Consequently one's thought should be centred on the ideal 
outcome, even though this trust be literally like a step in the 
dark. 2 To attain the ability thus effectively to direct the mind, 
the New Thought advises the practice of concentration, or in 
other words, the attainment of self-control. One is to learn to 
marshal the tendencies of the mind, so that they may be held 
together as a unit by the chosen ideal. To this end, one should 
set apart times for silent meditation, by one's self, preferably 
in a room where the surroundings are favorable to spiritual 
thought. In New Thought terms, this is called ' entering the 
silence.' " 3 

" The time will come when in the busy office or on the noisy 
street you can enter into the silence by simply drawing the 
mantle of your own thoughts about you and realizing that 
there and everywhere the Spirit of Infinite Life, Love, Wis- 
dom, Peace, Power, and Plenty is guiding, keeping, protecting, 
leading you. This is the spirit of continual prayer. 4 One of 
the most intuitive men we ever met had a desk at a city office 
where several other gentlemen were doing business constantly, 
and often talking loudly. Entirely undisturbed by the many 
various sounds about him, this self-centred faithful man would, 

1 H. W. Dresser : Voices of Freedom, 46. 

2 Dresser : Living by the Spirit, 58. 

3 Dresser : Voices of Freedom, 33. 

4 Trine : In Tune with the Infinite, p. 214. 



in any moment of perplexity, draw the curtains of privacy so 
completely about him that he would be as fully inclosed in his 
own psychic aura, and thereby as effectually removed from all 
distractions, as though he were alone in some primeval wood. 
Taking his difficulty with him into the mystic silence in the 
form of a direct question, to which he expected a certain an- 
swer, he would remain utterly passive until the reply came, 
and never once through many years' experience did he find 
himself disappointed or misled." : 

Wherein, I should like to know, does this intrinsically 
differ from the practice of ' recollection ' which plays so 
great a part in Catholic discipline ? Otherwise called the 
practice of the presence of God (and so known among 
ourselves, as for instance in Jeremy Taylor), it is thus 
defined by the eminent teacher Alvarez de Paz in his 
work on Contemplation. 

" It is the recollection of God, the thought of God, which in 
all places and circumstances makes us see him present, lets us 
commune respectfully and lovingly with him, and fills us with 
desire and affection for him. . . . Would you escape from 
every ill ? Never lose this recollection of God, neither in pros- 
perity nor in adversity, nor on any occasion whichsoever it be. 
Invoke not, to excuse yourself from this duty, either the diffi- 
culty or the importance of your business, for you can always 
remember that God sees you, that you are under his eye. If a 
thousand times an hour you forget him, reanimate a thousand 
times the recollection. If you cannot practice this exercise 
continuously, at least make yourself as familiar with it as pos- 
sible ; and, like unto those who in a rigorous winter draw near 
the fire as often as they can, go as often as you can to that 
ardent fire which will warm your soul." 2 

All the external associations of the Catholic discipline 
are of course unlike anything in mind-cure thought, but 
the purely spiritual part of the exercise is identical in 

1 Trine : p. 117. 

2 Quoted by Lejedne : Introd. a la Vie Mystique, 1899, p. 66. 


both communions, and in both communions those who 
urge it write with authority, for they have evidently ex- 
perienced in their own persons that whereof they tell. 
Compare again some mind-cure utterances : 

"High, healthful, pure thinking can be encouraged, pro- 
moted, and strengthened. Its current can be turned upon 
grand ideals until it forms a habit and wears a channel. By 
means of such discipline the mental horizon can be flooded 
with the sunshine of beauty, wholeness, and harmony. To 
inaugurate pure and lofty thinking may at first seem difficult, 
even almost mechanical, but perseverance will at length render 
it easy, then pleasant, and finally delightful. 

" The soul's real world is that which it has built of its 
thoughts, mental states, and imaginations. If we will, we can 
turn our backs upon the lower and sensuous plane, and lift our- 
selves into the realm of the spiritual and Real, and there 
gain a residence. The assumption of states of expectancy and 
receptivity will attract spiritual sunshine, and it will flow in 
as naturally as air inclines to a vacuum. . . . Whenever the 
thought is not occupied with one's daily duty or profession, it 
should be sent aloft into the spiritual atmosphere. There are 
quiet leisure moments by day, and wakeful hours at night, 
when this wholesome and delightful exercise may be engaged 
in to great advantage. If one who has never made any system- 
atic effort to lift and control the thought-forces will, for a 
single month, earnestly pursue the course here suggested, he 
will be surprised and delighted at the result, and nothing will 
induce him to go back to careless, aimless, and superficial 
thinking. At such favorable seasons the outside world, with 
all its current of daily events, is barred out, and one goes into 
the silent sanctuary of the inner temple of soul to commune 
and aspire. The spiritual hearing becomes delicately sensitive, 
so that the ' still, small voice ' is audible, the tumultuous waves 
of external sense are hushed, and there is a great calm. The 
ego gradually becomes conscious that it is face to face with the 
Divine Presence ; that mighty, healing, loving, Fatherly life 
which is nearer to us than we are to ourselves. There is soul- 


contact with the Parent-Soul, and an influx of life, love, virtue, 
health, and happiness from the Inexhaustible Fountain." 1 

When we reach the subject of mysticism, you will 
undergo so deep an immersion into these exalted states 
of consciousness as to be wet all over, if I may so express 
myself; and the cold shiver of doubt with which this 
little sprinkling may affect you will have long since 
passed away doubt, I mean, as to whether all such 
writing be not mere abstract talk and rhetoric set down 
pour encourager les autres. You will then be con- 
vinced, I trust, that these states of consciousness of 
1 union ' form a perfectly definite class of experiences, 
of which the soul may occasionally partake, and which 
certain persons may live by in a deeper sense than they 
live by anything else with which they have acquaintance. 
This brings me to a general philosophical reflection with 
which I should like to pass from the subject of healthy- 
mindedness, and close a topic which I fear is already 
only too long drawn out. It concerns the relation of all 
this systematized healthy-mindedness and mind-cure re- 
ligion to scientific method and the scientific life. 

In a later lecture I shall have to treat explicitly of the 
relation of religion to science on the one hand, and to 
primeval savage thought on the other. There are plenty 
of persons to-day ' scientists ' or ' positivists,' they are 
fond of calling themselves who will tell you that reli- 
gious thought is a mere survival, an atavistic reversion 
to a type of consciousness which humanity in its more 
enlightened examples has long since left behind and out- 
grown. If you ask them to explain themselves more 
fully, they will probably say that for primitive thought 

1 Henry Wood : Ideal Suggestion through Mental Photography, pp. 51, 
70 (abridged). 


everything is conceived of under the form of personality. 
The savage thinks that things operate by personal forces, 
and for the sake of individual ends. For him, even exter- 
nal nature obeys individual needs and clahns, just as if 
these were so many elementary powers. Now science, on 
the other hand, these positivists say, has proved that 
personality, so far from being an elementary force in 
nature, is but a passive resultant of the really elementary 
forces, physical, chemical, physiological, and psycho-phy- 
sical, which are all impersonal and general in character. 
Nothing individual accomplishes anything in the universe 
save in so far as it obeys and exemplifies some universal 
law. Should you then inquire of them by what means sci- 
ence has thus supplanted primitive thought, and discredited 
its personal way of looking at things, they would un- 
doubtedly say it has been by the strict use of the method 
of experimental verification. Follow out science's concep- 
tions practically, they will say, the conceptions that ignore 
personality altogether, and you will always be corrobo- 
rated. The world is so made that all your expectations 
will be experientially verified so long, and only so long, 
as you keep the terms from which you infer them imper- 
sonal and universal. 

But here we have mind-cure, with her diametrically 
opposite philosophy, setting up an exactly identical claim. 
Live as if I were true, she says, and every day will practi- 
cally prove you right. That the controlling energies of 
nature are personal, that your own personal thoughts are 
forces, that the powers of the universe will directly re- 
spond to your individual appeals and needs, are proposi- 
tions which your whole bodily and mental experience will 
verify. And that experience does largely verify these 
primeval religious ideas is proved by the fact that the 
mind-cure movement spreads as it does, not by proclama- 


tion and assertion simply, but by palpable experiential 
results. Here, in the very heyday of science's authority, 
it carries on an aggressive warfare against the scientific 
philosophy, and succeeds by using science's own pe- 
culiar methods and weapons. Believing that a higher 
power will take care of us in certain ways better than we 
can take care of ourselves, if we only genuinely throw 
ourselves upon it and consent to use it, it finds the 
belief, not only not impugned, but corroborated by its 

How conversions are thus made, and converts con- 
firmed, is evident enough from the narratives which I 
have quoted. I will quote yet another couple of shorter 
ones to give the matter a perfectly concrete turn. Here 
is one : 

" One of my first experiences in applying- my teaching was 
two months after I first saw the healer. I fell, spraining my 
right ankle, which I had done once four years before, having 
then had to use a crutch and elastic anklet for some months, 
and carefully guarding it ever since. As soon as I was on my 
feet I made the positive suggestion (and felt it through all my 
being) : ' There is nothing but God, all life comes from him 
perfectly. I cannot be sprained or hurt, I will let him take care 
of it.' Well, I never had a sensation in it, and I walked two 
miles that day." 

The next case not only illustrates experiment and veri- 
fication, but also the element of passivity and surrender 
of which awhile ago I made such account. 

" I went into town to do some shopping one morning, and I 
had not been gone long before I began to feel ill. The ill feel- 
ing increased rapidly, until I had pains in all my bones, nausea 
and faintness, headache, all the symptoms in short that precede 
an attack of influenza. I thought that I was going to have the 
grippe, epidemic then in Boston, or something worse. The 
mind-cure teachings that I had been listening to all the winter 


thereupon came into my mind, and I thought that here was an 
opportunity to test myself. On my way home I met a friend, 
and I refrained with some effort from telling her how I felt. 
That was the first step gained. I went to bed immediately, 
and my husband wished to send for the doctor. But I told 
him that I would rather wait until morning and see how I felt. 
Then followed one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. 

" I cannot express it in any other way than to say that I did 
' lie down in the stream of life and let it flow over me.' I gave 
up all fear of any impending disease ; I was perfectly willing 
and obedient. There was no intellectual effort, or train of 
thought. My dominant idea was : ' Behold the handmaid of 
the Lord : be it unto me even as thou wilt,' and a perfect con- 
fidence that all would be well, that all was well. The creative 
life was flowing into me every instant, and I felt myself allied 
with the Infinite, in harmony, and full of the peace that pass- 
eth understanding. There was no place in my mind for a jar- 
ring body. I had no consciousness of time or space or persons ; 
but only of love and happiness and faith. 

" I do not know how long this state lasted, nor when I fell 
asleep ; but when I woke up in the morning, / was well.'''' 

These are exceedingly trivial instances, 1 but in them, 
if we have anything at all, we have the method of exper- 
iment and verification. For the point I am driving 
at now, it makes no difference whether you consider the 
patients to be deluded victims of their imagination or not. 
That they seemed to themselves to have been cured by 
the experiments tried was enough to make them converts 
to the system. And although it is evident that one must 
be of a certain mental mould to get such results (for 
not every one can get thus cured to his own satisfaction 
any more than every one can be cured by the first regu- 
lar practitioner whom he calls in), yet it would surely be 
pedantic and over-scrupulous for those who can get their 
savage and primitive philosophy of mental healing veri- 

1 I print a couple of other instances as an Appendix to this lecture. 


fiecl in such experimental ways as this, to give them up 
at word of command for more scientific therapeutics. 
What are we to think of all this ? Has science made 
too wide a claim ? 

I believe that the claims of the sectarian scientist are, 
to say the least, premature. The experiences which we 
have been studying during this hour (and a great many 
other kinds of religious experiences are like them) plainly 
show the universe to be a more many-sided affair than 
any sect, even the scientific sect, allows for. What, in 
the end, are all our verifications but experiences that 
agree with more or less isolated systems of ideas (concep- 
tual systems) that our minds have framed ? But why in 
the name of common sense need we assume that only 
one such system of ideas can be true ? The obvious out- 
come of our total experience is that the world can be 
handled according to many systems of ideas, and is so 
handled by different men, and will each time give some 
characteristic kind of profit, for which he cares, to the 
handler, while at the same time some other kind of profit 
has to be omitted or postponed. Science gives to all of 
us telegraphy, electric lighting, and diagnosis, and suc- 
ceeds in preventing and curing a certain amount of dis- 
ease. Religion in the shape of mind-cure gives to some 
of us serenity, moral poise, and happiness, and prevents 
certain forms of disease as well as science does, or even 
better in a certain class of persons. Evidently, then, the 
science and the religion are both of them genuine keys 
for unlocking the world's treasure-house to him who can 
use either of them practically. Just as evidently neither 
is exhaustive or exclusive of the other's simultaneous use. 
And why, after all, may not the world be so complex as 
to consist of many interpenetrating spheres of reality, 
which we can thus approach in alternation by using dif- 


ferent conceptions and assuming different attitudes, just 
as mathematicians handle the same numerical and spatial 
facts by geometry, by analytical geometry, by algebra, 
by the calculus, or by quaternions, and each time come 
out right ? On this view religion and science, each veri- 
fied in its own way from hour to hour and from life to 
life, would be co-eternal. Primitive thought, with its 
belief in individualized personal forces, seems at any rate 
as far as ever from being driven by science from the field 
to-day. Numbers of educated people still find it the 
directest experimental channel by which to carry on their 
intercourse with reality. 1 

The case of mind-cure lay so ready to my hand that I 
could not resist the temptation of using it to bring these 
last truths home to your attention, but I must content 
myself to-day with this very brief indication. In a later 
lecture the relations of religion both to science and to 
primitive thought will have to receive much more explicit 


(See note to p. 121.) 

Case I. My own experience is this : I had long been ill, 
and one of the first results of my illness, a dozen years before, 
had been a diplopia which deprived me of the use of my eyes 
for reading and writing almost entirely, while a later one had 
been to shut me out from exercise of any kind under penalty of 

1 Whether the various spheres or systems are ever to fuse integrally into 
one absolute conception, as most philosophers assume that they must, and 
how, if so, that conception may best be reached, are questions that only the 
future can answer. What is certain now is the fact of lines of disparate 
conception, each corresponding to some part of the world's truth, each veri- 
fied in some degree, each leaving out some part of real experience. 


immediate and great exhaustion. I had been under the care 
of doctors of the highest standing both in Europe and America, 
men in whose power to help me I had had great faith, with no or 
ill result. Then, at a time when I seemed to be rather rapidly 
losing ground, I heard some things that gave me interest 
enough in mental healing to make me try it ; I had no great 
hope of getting any good from it it was a chance I tried, 
partly because my thought was interested by the new possibility 
it seemed to open, partly because it was the only chance I then 
could see. I went to X. in Boston, from whom some friends 
of mine had got, or thought that they had got, great help ; the 
treatment was a silent one ; little was said, and that little car- 
ried no conviction to my mind ; whatever influence was exerted 
was that of another person's thought or feeling silently pro- 
jected on to my unconscious mind, into my nervous system as it 
were, as we sat still together. I believed from the start in the 
possibility of such action, for I knew the power of the mind to 
shape, helping or hindering, the body's nerve-activities, and I 
thought telepathy probable, although unproved, but I had no 
belief in it as more than a possibility, and no strong conviction 
nor any mystic or religious faith connected with my thought of 
it that might have brought imagination strongly into play. 

I sat quietly with the healer for half an hour each day, at 
first with no result ; then, after ten days or so, I became quite 
suddenly and swiftly conscious of a tide of new energy rising 
within me, a sense of power to pass beyond old halting-places, 
of power to break the bounds that, though often tried before, 
had long been veritable walls about my life, too high to climb. 
I began to read and walk as I had not done for years, and the 
change was sudden, marked, and unmistakable. This tide 
seemed to mount for some weeks, three or four perhaps, when, 
summer having come, I came away, taking the treatment up 
again a few months later. The lift I got proved permanent, 
and left me slowly gaining ground instead of losing it, but with 
this lift the influence seemed in a way to have spent itself, and, 
though my confidence in the reality of the power had gained 
immensely from this first experience, and should have helped 
me to make further gain in health and strength if my belief in 


it had been the potent factor there, I never after this got any 
result at all as striking or as clearly marked as this which came 
when I made trial of it first, with little faith and doubtful 
expectation. It is difficult to put all the evidence in such a 
matter into words, to gather up into a distinct statement all 
that one bases one's conclusions on, but I have always felt that 
I had abundant evidence to justify (to myself, at least) the 
conclusion that I came to then, and since have held to, that the 
physical change which came at that time was, first, the re- 
sult of a change wrought within me by a change of mental 
state ; and, secondly, that that change of mental state was not, 
save in a very secondary way, brought about through the influ- 
ence of an excited imagination, or a consciously received sug- 
gestion of an hypnotic sort. Lastly, I believe that this change 
was the result of my receiving telepathically, and upon a mental 
stratum quite below the level of immediate consciousness, a 
healthier and more energetic attitude, receiving it from another 
person whose thought was directed upon me with the intention 
of impressing the idea of this attitude upon me. In my case 
the disease was distinctly what would be classed as nervous, not 
organic ; but from such opportunities as I have had of observ- 
ing, I have come to the conclusion that the dividing line that 
has been drawn is an arbitrary one, the nerves controlling the 
internal activities and the nutrition of the body throughout ; 
and I believe that the central nervous system, by starting and 
inhibiting local centres, can exercise a vast influence upon dis- 
ease of any kind, if it can be brought to bear. In my judg- 
ment the question is simply how to bring it to bear, and I think 
that the uncertainty and remarkable differences in the results 
obtained through mental healing do but show how ignorant we 
are as yet of the forces at work and of the means we should 
take to make them effective. That these results are not due to 
chance coincidences my observation of myself and others makes 
me sure ; that the conscious mind, the imagination, enters into 
them as a factor in many cases is doubtless true, but in many 
others, and sometimes very extraordinary ones, it hardly seems 
to enter in at all. On the whole I am inclined to think that as 
the healing action, like the morbid one, springs from the plane 


of the normally wwconscious mind, so the strongest and most 
effective impressions are those which it receives, in some as yet 
unknown, subtle way, directly from a healthier mind whose 
state, through a hidden law of sympathy, it reproduces. 

Case II. At the urgent request of friends, and with no 
faith and hardly any hope (possibly owing to a previous unsuc- 
cessful experience with a Christian Scientist), our little daugh- 
ter was placed under the care of a healer, and cured of a trouble 
about which the physician had been very discouraging in his 
diagnosis. This interested me, and I began studying earnestly 
the method and philosophy of this method of healing. Gradu- 
ally an inner peace and tranquillity came to me in so positive 
a way that my manner changed greatly. My children and 
friends noticed the change and commented upon it. All feel- 
ings of irritability disappeared. Even the expression of my 
face changed noticeably. 

I had been bigoted, aggressive, and intolerant in discus- 
sion, both in public and private. I grew broadly tolerant and 
receptive toward the views of others. I had been nervous and 
irritable, coming home two or three times a week with a 
sick headache induced, as I then supposed, by dyspepsia and 
catarrh. I grew serene and gentle, and the physical troubles 
entirely disappeared. I had been in the habit of approaching 
every business interview with an almost morbid dread. I now 
meet every one with confidence and inner calm. 

I may say that the growth has all been toward the elimina- 
tion of selfishness. I do not mean simply the grosser, more 
sensual forms, but those subtler and generally unrecognized 
kinds, such as express themselves in sorrow, grief, regret, envy, 
etc. It has been in the direction of a practical, working real- 
ization of the immanence of God and the Divinity of man's 
true, inner self. 



AT our last meeting, we considered the healthy-minded 
-j- temperament, the temperament which has a consti- 
tutional incapacity for prolonged suffering, and in which 
the tendency to see things optimistically is like a water 
of crystallization in which the individual's character is 
set. We saw how this temperament may become the 
basis for a peculiar type of religion, a religion in which 
good, even the good of this world's life, is regarded as 
the essential thing for a rational being to attend to. 
This religion directs him to settle his scores with the 
more evil aspects of the universe by systematically de- 
clining to lay them to heart or make much of them, by 
ignoring them in his reflective calculations, or even, on 
occasion, by denying outright that they exist. Evil is a 
disease ; and worry over disease is itself an additional 
form of disease, which only adds to the original com- 
plaint. Even repentance and remorse, affections which 
come in the character of ministers of good, may be but 
sickly and relaxing impulses. The best repentance is to 
up and act for righteousness, and forget that you ever 
had relations with sin. 

Spinoza's philosophy has this sort of healthy-minded- 
ness woven into the heart of it, and this has been one 
secret of its fascination. He whom Reason leads, ac- 
cording to Spinoza, is led altogether by the influence 
over his mind of good. Knowledge of evil is an ' inade- 
quate ' knowledge, fit only for slavish minds. So Spi- 

% fe '- ' 

W, \^\ V\ 

K Q, W, w v V\ c Y o w 


noza categorically condemns repentance. When men 
make mistakes, he says, 

" One might perhaps expect gnawings of conscience and 
repentance to help to bring them on the right path, and might 
thereupon conclude (as every one does conclude) that these 
affections are good things. Yet when we look at the matter 
closely, we shall find that not only are they not good, but on 
the contrary deleterious and evil passions. For it is manifest 
that we can always get along better by reason and love of truth 
than by worry of conscience and remorse. Harmful are these 
and evil, inasmuch as they form a particular kind of sadness ; 
and the disadvantages of sadness," he continues, " I have al- 
ready proved, and shown that we should strive to keep it from 
our life. Just so we should endeavor, since uneasiness of con- 
science and remorse are of this kind of complexion, to flee and 
shun these states of mind." 1 

Within the Christian body, for which repentance of 
sins has from the beginning been the critical religious 
act, healthy-mindedness has always come forward with 
its milder interpretation. Repentance according to such 
healthy-minded Christians means getting aw ay from the 
sin, not groaning and writhing over its commission. The 
Catholic practice of confession and absolution is in one 
of its aspects little more than a systematic method of 
keeping healthy-mindedness on top. By it a man's 
accounts with evil are periodically squared and audited, 
so that he may start the clean page with no old debts 
inscribed. Any Catholic will tell us how clean and fresh 
and free he feels after the purging operation. Martin 
Luther by no means belonged to the healthy-minded 
type in the radical sense in which we have discussed it, 
and he repudiated priestly absolution for sin. Yet in this 
matter of repentance he had some very healthy-minded 

1 Tract on God, Man, and Happiness, Book ii. ch. x. 


ideas, due in the main to the largeness of his conception 
of God. 

" When I was a monk," he says, " I thought that I was ut- 
terly cast away, if at any time I felt the lust of the flesh : that 
is to say, if I felt any evil motion, fleshly lust, wrath, hatred, 
or envy against any brother. I assayed many ways to help to 
quiet my conscience, but it would not be ; for the concupiscence 
and lust of my flesh did always return, so that I could not rest, 
but was continually vexed with these thoughts : This or that 
sin thou hast committed : thou art infected with envy, with 
impatiency, and such other sins : therefore thou art entered 
into this holy order in vain, and all thy good works are unpro- 
fitable. But if then I had rightly understood these sentences 
of Paul : ' The flesh lusteth contrary to the Spirit, and the 
Spirit contrary to the flesh ; and these two are one against 
another, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would do,' 
I should not have so miserably tormented myself, but should 
have thought and said to myself, as now commonly I do, ' Mar- 
tin, thou shalt not utterly be without sin, for thou hast flesh ; 
thou shalt therefore feel the battle thereof.' I remember that 
Staupitz was wont to say, ' I have vowed unto God above a 
thousand times that I would become a better man : but I never 
performed that which I vowed. Hereafter I will make no 
such vow : for I have now learned by experience that I am not 
able to perform it. Unless, therefore, God be favorable and 
merciful unto me for Christ's sake, I shall not be able, with all 
my vows and all my good deeds, to stand before him.' This 
(of Staupitz's) was not only a true, but also a godly and a 
holy desperation ; and this must they all confess, both with 
mouth and heart, who will be saved. For the godly trust not 
to their own righteousness. They look unto Christ their recon- 
ciler, who gave his life for their sins. Moreover, they know 
that the remnant of sin which is in their flesh is not laid to 
their charge, but freely pardoned. Notwithstanding, in the 
mean while they fight in spirit against the flesh, lest they should 
fulfill the lusts thereof ; and although they feel the flesh to 
rage and rebel, and themselves also do fall sometimes into sin 
through infirmity, yet are they not discouraged, nor think there- 


fore that their state and kind of life, and the works which are 
done according to their calling, displease God ; but they raise 
up themselves by faith." 1 

One of the heresies for which the Jesuits got that 
spiritual genius, Molinos, the founder of Quietism, so 
abominably condemned was his healthy-minded opinion 
of repentance : 

" When thou fallest into a fault, in what matter soever it be, 
do not trouble nor afflict thyself for it. For they are effects 
of our frail Nature, stained by Original Sin. The common 
enemy will make thee believe, as soon as thou fallest into 
any fault, that thou walkest in error, and therefore art out of 
God and his favor, and herewith would he make thee distrust 
of the divine Grace, telling thee of thy misery, and making a 
giant of it ; and putting it into thy head that every day thy 
soul grows worse instead of better, whilst it so often repeats 
these failings. O blessed Soul, open thine eyes ; and shut 
the gate against these diabolical suggestions, knowing thy 
misery, and trusting in the mercy divine. Would not he be a 
mere fool who, running at tournament with others, and falling 
in the best of the career, should lie weeping on the ground and 
afflicting himself with discourses upon his fall ? Man (they 
would tell him), lose no time, get up and take the course again, 
for he that rises again quickly and continues his race is as if 
he had never fallen. If thou seest thyself fallen once and 
a thousand times, thou oughtest to make use of the remedy 
which I have given thee, that is, a loving confidence in the 
divine mercy. These are the weapons with which thou must 
fight and conquer cowardice and vain thoughts. This is the 
means thou oughtest to use not to lose time, not to disturb 
thyself, and reap no good." 2 

Now in contrast with such healthy-minded views as 
these, if we treat them as a way of deliberately minimiz- 
ing evil, stands a radically opposite view, a way of max- 

1 Commentary on Galatians, Philadelphia, 1891, pp. 510-514 (abridged). 
3 Molinos : Spiritual Guide, Book II., chaps, xvii., xviii. (abridged). 


imizing evil, if you please so to call it, based on the 
persuasion that the evil aspects of our life are of its very 
essence, and that the world's meaning most comes home 
to us when we lay them most to heart. We have now 
to address ourselves to this more morbid way of looking 
at the situation. But as I closed our last hour with a 
general philosophical reflection on the healthy-minded 
way of taking life, I should like at this point to make 
another philosophical reflection upon it before turning 
to that heavier task. You will excuse the brief delay. 

If we admit that evil is an essential part of our being 
and the key to the interpretation of our life, we load our- 
selves down with a difficulty that has always proved bur- 
densome in philosophies of religion. Theism, whenever 
it has erected itself into a systematic philosophy of the 
universe, has shown a reluctance to let God be anything 
less than All-in- All. In other words, philosophic theism 
has always shown a tendency to become pantheistic and 
monistic, and to consider the world as one unit of abso- 
lute fact ; and this has been at variance with popular or 
practical theism, which latter has ever been more or less 
frankly pluralistic, not to say polytheistic, and shown 
itself perfectly well satisfied with a universe composed 
of many original principles, provided we be only allowed 
to believe that the divine principle remains supreme, and 
that the others are subordinate. In this latter case God 
is not necessarily responsible for the existence of evil ; 
he would only be responsible if it were not finally over- 
come. But on the monistic or pantheistic view, evil, like 
everything else, must have its foundation in God; and 
the difficulty is to see how this can possibly be the case 
if God be absolutely good. This difficulty faces us in 
every form of philosophy in which the world appears as 
one flawless unit of fact. Such a unit is an Individual, 


and in it the worst parts must be as essential as the best, 
must be as necessary to make the individual what he is ; 
since if any part whatever in an individual were to vanish 
or alter, it would no longer be that individual at all. The 
philosophy of absolute idealism, so vigorously represented 
both in Scotland and America to-day, has to struggle 
with this difficulty quite as much as scholastic theism 
struggled in its time ; and although it would be prema- 
ture to say that there is no speculative issue whatever 
from the puzzle, it is perfectly fair to say that there is 
no clear or easy issue, and that the only obvious escape 
from paradox here is to cut loose from the monistic 
assumption altogether, and to allow the world to have 
existed from its origin in pluralistic form, as an aggre- 
gate or collection of higher and lower things and princi- 
ples, rather than an absolutely unitary fact. For then evil 
would not need to be essential ; it might be, and may 
always have been, an independent portion that had no 
rational or absolute right to live with the rest, and which 
we might conceivably hope to see got rid of at last. 

Now the gospel of healthy-mindedness, as we have 
described it, casts its vote distinctly for this pluralistic 
view. Whereas the monistic philosopher finds himself 
more or less bound to say, as Hegel said, that everything 
actual is rational, and that evil, as an element dialec- 
tically required, must be pinned in and kept and con- 
secrated and have a function awarded to it in the final 
system of truth, healthy-mindedness refuses to say any- 
thing of the sort. 1 Evil, it says, is emphatically irrational, 

1 I say this in spite of the monistic utterances of many mind-cure 
writers ; for these utterances are really inconsistent with their attitude 
towards disease, and can easily be shown not to be logically involved in the 
experiences of union with a higher Presence with which they connect them- 
selves. The higher Presence, namely, need not be the absolute whole of 
things, it is quite sufficient for the life of religious experience to regard it as 
a part, if only it be the most ideal part. 


and not to be pinned in, or preserved, or consecrated 
in any final system of truth. It is a pure abomination 
to the Lord, an alien unreality, a waste element, to be 
sloughed off and negated, and the very memory of it, 
if possible, wiped out and forgotten. The ideal, so far 
from being co-extensive with the whole actual, is a mere 
extract from the actual, marked by its deliverance from 
all contact with this diseased, inferior, and excrementi- 
tious stuff. 

Here we have the interesting notion fairly and squarely 
presented to us, of there being elements of the universe 
which may make no rational whole in conjunction with 
the other elements, and which, from the point of view of 
any system which those other elements make up, can only 
be considered so much irrelevance and accident so 
much ' dirt,' as it were, and matter out of place. I ask 
you now not to forget this notion ; for although most 
philosophers seem either to forget it or to disdain it too 
much ever to mention it, I believe that we shall have to 
admit it ourselves in the end as containing an element of 
truth. The mind-cure gospel thus once more appears 
to us as having dignity and importance. We have seen 
it to be a genuine religion, and no mere silly appeal to 
imagination to cure disease ; we have seen its method of 
experimental verification to be not unlike the method 
of all science ; and now here we find mind-cure as the 
champion of a perfectly definite conception of the meta- 
physical structure of the world. I hope that, in view of 
all this, you will not regret my having pressed it upon 
your attention at such length. 

Let us now say good-by for a while to all this way of 
thinking, and turn towards those persons who cannot so 
swiftly throw off the burden of the consciousness of evil, 


but are congenitally fated to suffer from its presence. 
Just as we saw that in healthy-mindedness there are 
shallower and profounder levels, happiness like that of 
the mere animal, and more regenerate sorts of happiness, 
so also are there different levels of the morbid mind, and 
the one is much more formidable than the other. There 
are people for whom evil means only a mal-adjustment 
with things, a wrong correspondence of one's life with 
the environment. Such evil as this is curable, in princi- 
ple at least, upon the natural plane, for merely by modi- 
fying either the self or the things, or both at once, the 
two terms may be made to fit, and all go merry as a mar- 
riage bell again. But there are others for whom evil is 
no mere relation of the subject to particular outer things, 
but something more radical and general, a wrongness 
or vice in his essential nature, which no alteration of 
the environment, or any superficial rearrangement of the 
inner self, can cure, and which requires a supernatural 
remedy. On the whole, the Latin races have leaned more 
towards the former way of looking upon evil, as made up 
of ills and sins in the plural, removable in detail ; while 
the Germanic races have tended rather to think of Sin in 
the singular, and with a capital S, as of something inerad- 
icably ingrained in our natural subjectivity, and never 
to be removed by any superficial piecemeal operations. 1 
These comparisons of races are always open to excep- 
tion, but undoubtedly the northern tone in religion has 
inclined to the more intimately pessimistic persuasion, 
and this way of feeling, being the more extreme, we shall 
find by far the more instructive for our study. 

Recent psychology has found great use for the word 
' threshold ' as a symbolic designation for the point at 
which one state of mind passes into another. Thus we 

1 Cf. J. Milsaxd : Luther et le Serf-Arbitre, 1884, passim. 


speak of the threshold of a man's consciousness in gen- 
eral, to indicate the amount of noise, pressure, or other 
outer stimulus which it takes to arouse his attention at 
all. One with a high threshold will doze through an 
amount of racket by which one with a low threshold 
would be immediately waked. Similarly, when one is sen- 
sitive to small differences in any order of sensation, we 
say he has a low ' difference-threshold ' his mind easily 
steps over it into the consciousness of the differences in 
question. And just so we might speak of a ' pain-thresh- 
old,' a ' fear-threshold,' a ' misery-threshold,' and find it 
quickly overpassed by the consciousness of some individ- 
uals, but lying too high in others to be often reached by 
their consciousness. The sanguine and healthy-minded 
live habitually on the sunny side of their misery-line, the 
depressed and melancholy live beyond it, in darkness and 
apprehension. There are men who seem to have started 
in life with a bottle or two of champagne inscribed to 
their credit ; whilst others seem to have been born close 
to the pain-threshold, which the slightest irritants fatally 
send them over. 

Does it not appear as if one who lived more habitually 
on one side of the pain-threshold might need a different 
sort of religion from one who habitually lived on the 
other ? This question, of the relativity of different types 
of religion to different types of need, arises naturally at 
this point, and will become a serious problem ere we have 
done. But before we confront it in general terms, we 
must address ourselves to the unpleasant task of hearing 
what the sick souls, as we may call them in contrast to 
the healthy-minded, have to say of the secrets of their 
prison-house, their own peculiar form of consciousness. 
Let us then resolutely turn our backs on the once-born 
and their sky-blue optimistic gospel ; let us not simply cry 


out, in spite of all appearances, " Hurrah for the Uni- 
verse ! God 's in his Heaven, all 's right with the 
world." Let us see rather whether pity, pain, and fear, 
and the sentiment of human helplessness may not open 
a profounder view and put into our hands a more com- 
plicated key to the meaning of the situation. 

To begin with, how can things so insecure as the suc- 
cessful experiences of this world afford a stable anchor- 
age ? A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and 
life is after all a chain. In the healthiest and most pros- 
perous existence, how many links of illness, danger, and 
disaster are always interposed ? Unsuspectedly from the 
bottom of every fountain of pleasure, as the old poet 
said, something bitter rises up : a touch of nausea, a fall- 
ing dead of the delight, a whiff of melancholy, things 
that sound a knell, for fugitive as they may be, they 
bring a feeling of coming from a deeper region and often 
have an appalling convincingness. The buzz of life 
ceases at their touch as a piano-string stops sounding 
when the damper falls upon it. 

Of course the music can commence again ; and again 
and again, at intervals. But with this the healthy- 
minded consciousness is left with an irremediable sense 
of precariousness. It is a bell with a crack ; it draws its 
breath on sufferance and by an accident. 

Even if we suppose a man so packed with healthy- 
mindedness as never to have experienced in his own per- 
son any of these sobering intervals, still, if he is a reflect- 
ing being, he must generalize and class his own lot with 
that of others ; and, doing so, he must s^e that his escape 
is just a lucky chance and no essential difference. He 
might just as well have been born to an entirely different 
fortune. And then indeed the hollow security ! What 


kind of a frame of things is it of which the best you can 
say is, " Thank God, it has let me off clear this time ! ' 
Is not its blessedness a fragile fiction ? Is not your joy 
in it a very vulgar glee, not much unlike the snicker of 
any rogue at his success ? If indeed it were all success, 
even on such terms as that ! But take the happiest man, 
the one most envied by the world, and in nine cases out 
of ten his inmost consciousness is one of failure. Either 
his ideals in the line of his achievements are pitched far 
higher than the achievements themselves, or else he has 
secret ideals of which the world knows nothing, and in 
regard to which he inwardly knows himself to be found 

When such a conquering optimist as Goethe can ex- 
press himself in this wise, how must it be with less suc- 
cessful men ? 

" I will say nothing," writes Goethe in 1824, " against the 
course of my existence. But at bottom it has been nothing but 
pain and burden, and I can affirm that during the whole of my 
75 years, I have not had four weeks of genuine well-being. It 
is but the perpetual rolling of a rock that must be raised up 
again forever." 

What single-handed man was ever on the whole as 
successful as Luther ? yet when he had grown old, he 
looked back on his life as if it were an absolute failure. 

" I am utterly weary of life. I pray the Lord will come 
forthwith and carry me hence. Let him come, above all, with 
his last Judgment: I will stretch out my neck, the thunder will 
burst forth, and I shall be at rest." And having a necklace 
of white agates in his hand at the time he added : " O God, 
grant that it may come without delay. I would readily eat up 
this necklace to-day, for the Judgment to come to-morrow." 
The Electress Dowager, one day when Luther was dining with 
her, said to him : " Doctor, I wish you may live forty years to 


come." " Madam," replied he, " rather than live forty years 
more, I would give up my chance of Paradise." 

Failure, then, failure ! so the world stamps us at every 
turn. We strew it with our blunders, our misdeeds, our 
lost opportunities, with all the memorials of our inade- 
quacy to our vocation. And with what a damning em- 
phasis does it then blot us out ! No easy fine, no mere 
apology or formal expiation, will satisfy the world's de- 
mands, but every pound of flesh exacted is soaked with 
all its blood. The subtlest forms of sufferino- known to 
man are connected with the poisonous humiliations inci- 
dental to these results. 

And they are pivotal human experiences. A process 
so ubiquitous and everlasting is evidently an integral part 
of life. " There is indeed one element in human des- 
tiny," Robert Louis Stevenson writes, " that not blindness 
itself can controvert. Whatever else we are intended to 
do, we are not intended to succeed ; failure is the fate 
allotted." * And our nature being thus rooted in failure, 
is it any wonder that theologians should have held it to 
be essential, and thought that only through the personal 
experience of humiliation which it engenders the deeper 
sense of life's significance is reached? 2 


1 He adds with characteristic healthy-mindedness : " Our business is to 
continue to fail in good spirits." 

2 The God of many men is little more than their court of appeal against 
the damnatory judgment passed on their failures by the opinion of this 
world. To our own consciousness there is usually a residuum of worth left 
over after our sins and errors have been told off our capacity of acknow- 
ledging and regretting them is the germ of a better self in posse at least. 
But the world deals with us in actu and not in posse : and of this hidden 
germ, not to be guessed at from without, it never takes account. Then we 
turn to the AU-knower, who knows our bad, but knows this good in us also, 
and who is just. We cast ourselves with our repentance on his mercy : 
only by an All-knower can we finally be judged. So the need of a God 
very definitely emerges from this sort of experience of life. 


But this is only the first stage of the world-sickness. 
Make the human being's sensitiveness a little greater, 
carry him a little farther over the misery-threshold, and 
the good quality of the successful moments themselves 
when they occur is spoiled and vitiated. All natural 
goods perish. Riches take wings ; fame is a breath ; 
love is a cheat ; youth and health and pleasure vanish. 
Can things whose end is always dust and disappointment 
be the real goods which our souls require? Back of 
everything is the great spectre of universal death, the 
all-encompassing blackness : 

" What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh 
under the Sun ? I looked on all the works that my hands had 
wrought, and behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit. 
For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts ; as 
the one dieth, so dieth the other ; all are of the dust, and all 
turn to dust again. . . . The dead know not anything, neither 
have they any more a reward ; for the memory of them is for- 
gotten. Also their love and their hatred and their envy is now 
perished ; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any- 
thing that is done under the Sun. . . . Truly the light is sweet, 
and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the Sun : but 
if a man live many years and rejoice in them all, yet let him 
remember the days of darkness ; for they shall be many." 

In short, life and its negation are beaten up inextrica- 
bly together. But if the life be good, the negation of it 
must be bad. Yet the two are equally essential facts of 
existence ; and all natural happiness thus seems infected 
with a contradiction. The breath of the sepulchre sur- 
rounds it. 

To a mind attentive to this state of things and rightly 
subject to the joy-destroying chill which such a contem- 
plation engenders, the only relief that healthy-minded- 
ness can give is by saying: 'Stuff and nonsense, get 
out into the open air ! ' or ' Cheer up, old fellow, you '11 


be all right erelong, if you will only drop your morbid- 
ness ! ' But in all seriousness, can such bald animal 
talk as that be treated as a rational answer ? To ascribe 
religious value to mere happy-go-lucky contentment with 
one's brief chance at natural good is but the very conse- 
cration of forgetf ulness and superficiality. Our troubles 
lie indeed too deep for that cure. The fact that we can 
die, that we can be ill at all, is what perplexes us ; the 
fact that we now for a moment live and are well is irrele- 
vant to that perplexity. We need a life not correlated 
with death, a health not liable to illness, a kind of good 
that will not perish, a good in fact that flies beyond the 
Goods of nature. 

It all depends on how sensitive the soul may become 
to discords. " The trouble with me is that I believe too 
much in common happiness and goodness," said a friend 
of mine whose consciousness was of this sort, " and 
nothing can console me for their transiency. I am 
appalled and disconcerted at its being possible." And so 
with most of us : a little cooling down of animal excita- 
bility and instinct, a little loss of animal toughness, a 
little irritable weakness and descent of the pain-threshold, 
will bring the worm at the core of all our usual springs 
of delight into full view, and turn us into melancholy 
metaphysicians. The pride of life and glory of the 
world will shrivel. It is after all but the standing quarrel 
of hot youth and hoary eld. Old age has the last word : 
the purely naturalistic look at life, however enthusiasts 
cally it may begin, is sure to end in sadness. 

This sadness lies at the heart of every merely posi- 
tivistic, agnostic, or naturalistic scheme of philosophy. 
Let sanguine healthy-mindedness do its best with its 
strange power of living in the moment and ignoring and 
forgetting, still the evil background is really there to be 


thought of, and the skull will grin in at the banquet. In 
the practical life of the individual, we know how his 
whole gloom or glee about any present fact depends on 
the remoter schemes and hopes with which it stands re- 
lated. Its significance and framing give it the chief part 
of its value. Let it be known to lead nowhere, and 
however agreeable it may be in its immediacy, its glow 
and gilding vanish. The old man, sick with an insidi- 
ous internal disease, may laugh and quaff his wine at first 
as well as ever, but he knows his fate now, for the doc- 
tors have revealed it ; and the knowledge knocks the 
satisfaction out of all these functions. They are part- 
ners of death and the worm is their brother, and they 
turn to a mere flatness. 

The lustre of the present hour is always borrowed 
from the background of possibilities it goes with. Let 
our common experiences be enveloped in an eternal moral 
order ; let our suffering have an immortal significance ; 
let Heaven smile upon the earth, and deities pay their 
visits ; let faith and hope be the atmosphere which man 
breathes in ; and his days pass by with zest ; they stir 
with prospects, they thrill with remoter values. Place 
around them on the contrary the curdling cold and gloom 
and absence of all permanent meaning which for pure 
naturalism and the popular science evolutionism of our 
time are all that is visible ultimately, and the thrill stops 
short, or turns rather to an anxious trembling. 

For naturalism, fed on recent cosmological specula- 
tions, mankind is in a position similar to that of a set of 
people living on a frozen lake, surrounded by cliffs over 
which there is no escape, yet knowing that little by little 
the ice is melting, and the inevitable day drawing near 
when the last film of it will disappear, and to be drowned 
ignominiously will be the human creature's portion. The 


merrier the skating, the warmer and more sparkling the 
sun by day, and the ruddier the bonfires at night, the 
more poignant the sadness with which one must take in 
the meaning of the total situation. 

The early Greeks are continually held up to us in lit- 
erary works as models of the healthy-minded joyousness 
which the religion of nature may engender. There was 
indeed much joyousness among the Greeks Homer's 
flow of enthusiasm for most things that the sun shines 
upon is steady. But even in Homer the reflective pas- 
sages are cheerless, 1 and the moment the Greeks grew 
systematically pensive and thought of ultimates, they 
became unmitigated pessimists. 2 The jealousy of the 
gods, the nemesis that follows too much happiness, the 
all-encompassing death, fate's dark opacity, the ultimate 
and unintelligible cruelty, were the fixed background of 

1 E. g., Iliad, XVII. 446 : " Nothing then is more wretched anywhere 
than man of all that breathes and creeps upon this earth." 

2 E. g., Theognis, 425-428 : " Best of all for all things upon earth is it 
not to be born nor to behold the splendors of the Sun ; next best to traverse 
as soon as possible the gates of Hades." See also the almost identical 
passage in (Edipus in Colonus, 1225. The Anthology is full of pessimis- 
tic utterances : " Naked came I upon the earth, naked I go below the 
ground why then do I vainly toil when I see the end naked before me ? " 
" How did I come to be ? Whence am I ? Wherefore did I come ? To 
pass away. How can I learn aught when naught I know ? Being naught I 
came to life : once more shall I be what I was. Nothing and nothingness 
is the whole race of mortals." " For death we are all cherished and fat- 
tened like a herd of hogs that is wantonly butchered." 

The difference between Greek pessimism and the oriental and modern 
variety is that the Greeks had not made the discovery that the pathetic 
mood may be idealized, and figure as a higher form of sensibility. Their 
spirit was still too essentially masculine for pessimism to be elaborated or 
lengthily dwelt on in their classic literature. They woidd have despised a 
life set wholly in a minor key, and summoned it to keep within the proper 
bounds of lachrymosity. The discovery that the enduring emphasis, so far 
as this world goes, may be laid on its pain and failure, was reserved for 
races more complex, and (so to speak) more feminine than the Hellenes 
had attained to being in the classic period. But all the same was the out- 
look of those Hellenes blackly pessimistic. 


their imagination. The beautiful joyousness of their 
polytheism is only a poetic modern fiction. They knew 
no joys comparable in quality of preciousness to those 
which we shall erelong see that Brahmans, Buddhists, 
Christians, Mohammedans, twice-born people whose reli- 
gion is non-naturalistic, get from their several creeds of 
mysticism and renunciation. 

Stoic insensibility and Epicurean resignation were the 
farthest advance which the Greek mind made in that di- 
rection. The Epicurean said : " Seek not to be happy, 
but rather to escape unhappiness ; strong happiness is 
always linked with pain ; therefore hug the safe shore, 
and do not tempt the deeper raptures. Avoid disap- 
pointment by expecting little, and by aiming low ; and 
above all do not fret." The Stoic said : " The only 
genuine good that life can yield a man is the free pos- 
session of his own soul ; all other goods are lies." 
Each of these philosophies is in its degree a philosophy 
of despair in nature's boons. Trustful self-abandonment 
to the joys that freely offer has entirely departed from 
both Epicurean and Stoic ; and what each proposes is a 
way of rescue from the resultant dust-and-ashes state of 
mind. The Epicurean still awaits results from economy 
of indulgence and damping of desire. The Stoic hopes 
for no results, and gives up natural good altogether. 
There is dignity in both these forms of resignation. 
They represent distinct stages in the sobering process 
which man's primitive intoxication with sense-happiness 
is sure to undergo. In the one the hot blood has grown 
cool, in the other it has become quite cold ; and although 
I have spoken of them in the past tense, as if they were 
merely historic, yet Stoicism and Epicureanism will prob- 
ably be to all time typical attitudes, marking a certain 
definite stage accomplished in the evolution of the world- 


sick soul. 1 They mark the conclusion of what we call 
the once-born period, and represent the highest flights of 
what twice-born religion would call the purely natural 
man Epicureanism, which can only by great courtesy 
be called a religion, showing his refinement, and Stoi- 
cism exhibiting his moral will. They leave the world 
in the shape of an unreconciled contradiction, and seek 
no higher unity. Compared with the complex ecstasies 
which the supernaturally regenerated Christian may en- 
joy, or the oriental pantheist indulge in, their receipts 
for equanimity are expedients which seem almost crude 
in their simplicity. 

Please observe, however, that I am not yet pretending 
finally to judge any of these attitudes. I am only 
describing their variety. 

The securest way to the rapturous sorts of happiness 
of which the twice-born make report has as an historic 
matter of fact been through a more radical pessimism 
than anything that we have yet considered. We have 
seen how the lustre and enchantment may be rubbed off 
from the goods of nature. But there is a pitch of unhap- 
piness so great that the goods of nature may be entirely 
forgotten, and all sentiment of their existence vanish from 
the mental field. For this extremity of pessimism to be 
reached, something more is needed than observation of 

1 For instance, on the very day on which I write this page, the post 
brings me some aphorisms from a worldly-wise old friend in Heidelberg 
which may serve as a good contemporaneous expression of Epicureanism : 
" By the word 'happiness ' every human being understands something dif- 
ferent. It is a phantom pursued only by weaker minds. The wise man is 
satisfied with the more modest but much more definite term contentment. 
What education should chiefly aim at is to save us from a discontented life. 
Health is one favoring condition, but by no means an indispensable one, of 
contentment. Woman's heart and love are a shrewd device of Nature, a 
trap which she sets for the average man, to force him into working. But 
the wise man will always prefer work chosen by himself." 


life and reflection upon death. The individual must in 
his own person become the prey of a pathological mel- 
ancholy. As the healthy-minded enthusiast succeeds in 
ignoring evil's very existence, so the subject of melan- 
choly is forced in spite of himself to ignore that of all 
good whatever : for him it may no longer have the least 
reality. Such sensitiveness and susceptibility to mental 
pain is a rare occurrence where the nervous constitution is 
entirely normal ; one seldom finds it in a healthy subject 
even where he is the victim of the most atrocious cruel- 
ties of outward fortune. So we note here the neurotic 
constitution, of which I said so much in my first lecture, 
making its active entrance on our scene, and destined to 
play a part in much that follows. Since these experi- 
ences of melancholy are in the first instance absolutely 
private and individual, I can now help myself out with 
personal documents. Painful indeed they will be to 
listen to, and there is almost an indecency in handling 
them in public. Yet they lie right in the middle of our 
path ; and if we are to touch the psychology of religion 
at all seriously, we must be willing to forget convention- 
alities, and dive below the smooth and lying official con- 
versational surface. 

One can distinguish many kinds of pathological depres- 
sion. Sometimes it is mere passive joylessness and drear- 
iness, discouragement, dejection, lack of taste and zest 
and spring. Professor Ribot has proposed the name 
anhedonia to designate this condition. 

" The state of anhedonia, if I may coin a new word to pair 
off with analgesia" he writes, "has been very little studied, but 
it exists. A young girl was smitten with a liver disease which 
for some time altered her constitution. She felt no longer any 
affection for her father and mother. She would have played 
with her doll, but it was impossible to find the least pleasure in 


the act. The same things which formerly convulsed her with 
laughter entirely failed to interest her now. Esquirol observed 
the case of a very intelligent magistrate who was also a prey to 
hepatic disease. Every emotion appeared dead within him. He 
manifested neither perversion nor violence, but complete absence 
of emotional reaction. If he went to the theatre, which he did 
out of habit, he could find no pleasure there. The thought of 
his house, of his home, of his wife, and of his absent children 
moved him as little, he said, as a theorem of Euclid." 1 

Prolonged seasickness will in most persons produce a 
temporary condition of anhedonia. Every good, terres- 
tial or celestial, is imagined only to be turned from with 
disgust. A temporary condition of this sort, connected 
with the religious evolution of a singularly lofty charac- 
ter, both intellectual and moral, is well described by the 
Catholic philosopher, Father Gratry, in his autobiographi- 
cal recollections. In consequence of mental isolation and 
excessive study at the Polytechnic school, young Gratry 
fell into a state of nervous exhaustion with symptoms 
which he thus describes : 

" I had such a universal terror that I woke at night with a 
start, thinking that the Pantheon was tumbling on the Poly- 
technic school, or that the school was in flames, or that the 
Seine was pouring into the Catacombs, and that Paris was 
being swallowed up. And when these impressions were past, 
all day long without respite I suffered an incurable and intol- 
erable desolation, verging on despair. I thought myself, in 
fact, rejected by God, lost, damned ! I felt something like the 
suffering of hell. Before that I had never even thought of 
hell. My mind had never turned in that direction. Neither 
discourses nor reflections had impressed me in that way. I 
took no account of hell. Now, and all at once, I suffered in a 
measure what is suffered there. 

" But what was perhaps still more dreadful is that every idea 
of heaven was taken away from me : I could no longer conceive 
1 Ribot : Psychologie des sentiments, p. 54. 


of anything of the sort. Heaven did not seem to me worth 
going to. It was like a vacuum ; a mythological elysium, an 
abode of shadows less real than the earth. I could conceive no 
joy, no pleasure in inhabiting it. Happiness, joy, light, affec- 
tion, love all these words were now devoid of sense. With- 
out doubt I could still have talked of all these things, but I had 
become incapable of feeling anything in them, of understanding 
anything about them, of hoping anything from them, or of 
believing them to exist. There was my great and inconsolable 
grief ! I neither perceived nor conceived any longer the exist- 
ence of happiness or perfection. An abstract heaven over a 
naked rock. Such was my present abode for eternity." 1 

So much for melancholy in the sense of incapacity 
for joyous feeling. A much worse form of it is positive 
and active anguish, a sort of psychical neuralgia wholly 
unknown to healthy life. Such anguish may partake of 
various characters, having sometimes more the quality of 
loathing ; sometimes that of irritation and exasperation ; 
or again of self -mistrust and self -despair ; or of suspicion, 
anxiety, trepidation, fear. The patient may rebel or sub- 

1 A. Gratry : Souvenirs de ma jeunesse, 1880, pp. 119-121, abridged. 
Some persons are affected with anhedonia permanently, or at any rate with 
a loss of the usual appetite for life. The annals of suicide supply such ex- 
amples as the following : 

An uneducated domestic servant, aged nineteen, poisons herself, and 
leaves two letters expressing her motive for the act. To her parents she 
writes : 

"Life is sweet perhaps to some, but I prefer what is sweeter than life, 
and that is death. So good-by forever, my dear parents. It is nobody's 
fault, but a strong desire of my own which I have longed to fulfill for three 
or four years. I have always had a hope that some day I might have an 
opportunity of fulfilling it, and now it has come. ... It is a wonder I have 
put this off so long, but I thought perhaps I should cheer up a bit and put 
all thought out of my head." To her brother she writes : " Good-by for- 
ever, my own dearest brother. By the time you get this I shall be gone for- 
ever. I know, dear love, there is no forgiveness for what I am going to 
do. ... I am tired of living, so am willing to die. . . . Life may be sweet 
to some, but death to me is sweeter." S. A. K. Strahan : Suicide and 
Insanity, 2d edition, London, 1894, p. 131. 


mit ; may accuse himself, or accuse outside powers ; and 
he may or he may not be tormented by the theoretical 
mystery of why he should so have to suffer. Most cases 
are mixed cases, and we should not treat our classifi- 
cations with too much respect. Moreover, it is only a 
relatively small proportion of cases that connect them- 
selves with the religious sphere of experience at all. 
Exasperated cases, for instance, as a rule do not. I quote 
now literally from the first case of melancholy on which 
I lay my hand. It is a letter from a patient in a French 

" I suffer too much in this hospital, both physically and mor- 
ally. Besides the burnings and the sleeplessness (for I no 
longer sleep since I am shut up here, and the little rest I get is 
broken by bad dreams, and I am waked with a jump by night- 
mares, dreadful visions, lightning, thunder, and the rest), fear, 
atrocious fear, presses me down, holds me without respite, never 
lets me go. Where is the justice in it all ! What have I done 
to deserve this excess of severity ? Under what form will this 
fear crush me ? What would I not owe to any one who would 
rid me of my life ! Eat, drink, lie awake all night, suffer with- 
out interruption such is the fine legacy I have received from 
my mother ! W r hat I fail to understand is this abuse of power. 
There are limits to everything, there is a middle way. But 
God knows neither middle way nor limits. I say God, but 
why ? All I have known so far has been the devil. After all, 
I am afraid of God as much as of the devil, so I drift along, 
thinking of nothing but suicide, but with neither courage nor 
means here to execute the act. As you read this, it will easily 
prove to you my insanity. The style and the ideas are incoher- 
ent enough I can see that myself. But I cannot keep myself 
from being either crazy or an idiot ; and, as things are, from 
whom should I ask pity ? I am defenseless against the invis- 
ible enemy who is tightening his coils around me. I should be 
no better armed against him even if I saw him, or had seen 
him. Oh, if he would but kill me, devil take him ! Death, 



death, once for all ! But I stop. I have raved to you long 
enough. I say raved, for I can write no otherwise, having 
neither brain nor thoughts left. O God ! what a misfortune 
to be born! Born like a mushroom, doubtless between an 
evening and a morning ; and how true and right I was when in 
our philosophy-year in college I chewed the cud of bitterness 
with the pessimists. Yes, indeed, there is more pain in life than 
gladness it is one long agony until the grave. Think how 
gay it makes me to remember that this horrible misery of mine, 
coupled with this unspeakable fear, may last fifty, one hundred, 
who knows how many more years ! " * 

This letter shows two things. First, you see how the 
entire consciousness of the poor man is so choked with 
the feeling of evil that the sense of there being any good 
in the world is lost for him altogether. His attention 
excludes it, cannot admit it : the sun has left his heaven. 
And secondly you see how the querulous temper of his 
misery keeps his mind from taking a religious direction. 
Querulousness of mind tends in fact rather towards irre- 
ligion ; and it has played, so far as I know, no part 
whatever in the construction of religious systems. 

Religious melancholy must be cast in a more melting 
mood. Tolstoy has left us, in his book called My Con- 
fession, a wonderful account of the attack of melancholy 
which led him to his own religious conclusions. The 
latter in some respects are peculiar ; but the melancholy 
presents two characters which make it a typical document 
for our present purpose. First it is a well-marked case 
of anhedonia, of passive loss of appetite for all life's 
values; and second, it shows how the altered and es- 
tranged aspect which the world assumed in consequence 
of this stimulated Tolstoy's intellect to a gnawing, cark- 
ing questioning and effort for philosophic relief. I mean 

1 Roubinovitch et Toulouse : La Melancolie, 1897, p. 170, abridged. 


to quote Tolstoy at some length ; but before doing so, I 
will make a general remark on each of these two points. 

First on our spiritual judgments and the sense of value 
in general. 

It is notorious that facts are compatible with opposite 
emotional comments, since the same fact will inspire en- 
tirely different feelings in different persons, and at differ- 
ent times in the same person ; and there is no rationally 
deducible connection between any outer fact and the 
sentiments it may happen to provoke. These have their 
source in another sphere of existence altogether, in the 
animal and spiritual region of the subject's being. Con- 
ceive yourself, if possible, suddenly stripped of all the 
emotion with which your world now inspires you, and try 
to imagine it as it exists, purely by itself, without your 
favorable or unfavorable, hopeful or apprehensive com- 
ment. It will be almost impossible for you to realize 
such a condition of negativity and deadness. No one 
portion of the universe would then have importance be- 
yond another ; and the whole collection of its things and 
series of its events would be without significance, char- 
acter, expression, or perspective. Whatever of value, 
interest, or meaning our respective worlds may appear 
endued with are thus pure gifts of the spectator's mind. 
The passion of love is the most familiar and extreme 
example of this fact. If it comes, it comes ; if it does 
not come, no process of reasoning can force it. Yet it 
transforms the value of the creature loved as utterly as 
the sunrise transforms Mont Blanc from a corpse-like 
gray to a rosy enchantment ; and it sets the whole world 
to a new tune for the lover and gives a new issue to his 
life. So with fear, with indignation, jealousy, ambition, 
worship. If they are there, life changes. And whether 
they shall be there or not depends almost always upon 


non-logical, often on organic conditions. And as the 
excited interest which these passions put into the world 
is our gift to the world, just so are the passions them- 
selves gifts, gifts to us, from sources sometimes low 
and sometimes high ; but almost always non-logical and 
beyond our control. How can the moribund old man 
reason back to himself the romance, the mystery, the 
imminence of great things with which our old earth 
tingled for him in the days when he was young and well ? 
Gifts, either of the flesh or of the spirit ; and the spirit 
bloweth where it listeth ; and the world's materials lend 
their surface passively to all the gifts alike, as the stage- 
setting receives indifferently whatever alternating colored 
lights may be shed upon it from the optical apparatus in 
the gallery. 

Meanwhile the practically real world for each one of 
us, the effective world of the individual, is the compound 
world, the physical facts and emotional values in indis- 
tinguishable combination. Withdraw or pervert either 
factor of this complex resultant, and the kind of experi- 
ence we call pathological ensues. 

In Tolstoy's case the sense that life had any meaning 
whatever was for a time wholly withdrawn. The result 
was a transformation in the whole expression of reality. 
When we come to study the phenomenon of conversion 
or religious regeneration, we shall see that a not infre- 
quent consequence of the change operated in the subject 
is a transfiguration of the face of nature in his eyes. A 
new heaven seems to shine upon a new earth. In melan- 
choliacs there is usually a similar change, only it is in the 
reverse direction. The world now looks remote, strange, 
sinister, uncanny. Its color is gone, its breath is cold, 
there is no speculation in the eyes it glares with. " It is 
as if I lived in another century," says one asylum patient. 


"I see everything through a cloud," says another, 
" things are not as they were, and I am changed." "I 
see," says a third, " I touch, but the things do not come 
near me, a thick veil alters the hue and look of every- 
thing." " Persons move like shadows, and sounds seem 
to come from a distant world." " There is no longer 
any past for me ; people appear so strange ; it is as if I 
could not see any reality, as if I were in a theatre ; as if 
people were actors, and everything were scenery ; I can 
no longer find, myself; I walk, but why? Everything 
floats before my eyes, but leaves no impression." "I 
weep false tears, I have unreal hands : the things I see 
are not real things." Such are expressions that natu- 
rally rise to the lips of melancholy subjects describing 
their changed, state. 1 

Now there are some subjects whom all this leaves a 
prey to the profoundest astonishment. The strangeness 
is wrong. The unreality cannot be. A mystery is con- 
cealed, and a metaphysical solution must exist. If the 
natural world is so double-faced and unhomelike, what 
world, what thing is real ? An urgent wondering and 
questioning is set up, a poring theoretic activity, and 
in the desperate effort to get into right relations with 
the matter, the sufferer is often led to what becomes for 
him a satisfying religious solution. 

At about the age of fifty, Tolstoy relates that he began 
to have moments of perplexity, of what he calls arrest, 
as if he knew not ' how to live,' or what to do. It is ob- 
vious that these were moments in which the excitement 
and interest which our functions naturally bring had 
ceased. Life had been enchanting, it was now flat sober, 
more than sober, dead. Things were meaningless whose 

1 I cull these examples from the work of G. Dumas : La Tristesse et la 
Joie, 1900. 


meaning had always been self-evident. The questions 
' Why ? ' and ' What next ? ' began to beset him more 
and more frequently. At first it seemed as if such ques- 
tions must be answerable, and as if he could easily find 
the answers if he would take the time ; but as they ever 
became more urgent, he perceived that it was like those 
first discomforts of a sick man, to which he pays but little 
attention till they run into one continuous suffering, and 
then he realizes that what he took for a passing disorder 
means the most momentous thing in the world for him, 
means his death. 

These questions < Why ? ' < Wherefore ? ' ' What for ? ' 
found no response. 

" I felt," says Tolstoy, " that something had broken within 
me on which my life had always rested, that I had nothing 
left to hold on to, and that morally my life had stopped. An 
invincible force impelled me to get rid of my existence, in one 
way or another. It cannot be said exactly that I wished to kill 
myself, for the force which drew me away from life was fuller, 
more powerful, more general than any mere desire. It was a 
force like my old aspiration to live, only it impelled me in the 
opposite direction. It was an aspiration of my whole being to 
get out of life. 

" Behold me then, a man happy and in good health, hiding 
the rope in order not to hang myself to the rafters of the room 
where every night I went to sleep alone ; behold me no longer 
going shooting, lest I should yield to the too easy temptation of 
putting an end to myself with my gun. 

" I did not know what I wanted. I was afraid of life ; I 
was driven to leave it ; and in spite of that I still hoped some- 
thing from it. 

" All this took place at a time when so far as all my outer 
circumstances went, I ought to have been completely happy. I 
had a good wife who loved me and whom I loved; good chil- 
dren and a large property which was increasing with no pains 
taken on my part. I was more respected by my kinsfolk and 


acquaintance than I had ever been ; I was loaded with praise 
by strangers ; and without exaggeration I could believe my 
name already famous. Moreover I was neither insane nor ill. 
On the contrary, I possessed a physical and mental strength 
which I have rarely met in persons of my age. I could mow 
as well as the peasants, I could work with my brain eight hours 
uninterruptedly and feel no bad effects. 

" And yet I could give no reasonable meaning to any actions 
of my life. And I was surprised that I had not understood 
this from the very beginning. My state of mind was as if 
some wicked and stupid jest was being played upon me by some 
one. One can live only so long as one is intoxicated, drunk 
with life ; but when one grows sober one cannot fail to see 
that it is all a stupid cheat. What is truest about it is that 
there is nothing even funny or silly in it ; it is cruel and stupid, 
purely and simply. 

" The oriental fable of the traveler surprised in the desert 
by a wild beast is very old. 

" Seeking to save himself from the fierce animal, the traveler 
jumps into a well with no water in it ; but at the bottom of 
this well he sees a dragon waiting with open mouth to devour 
him. And the unhappy man, not daring to go out lest he 
should be the prey of the beast, not daring to jump to the 
bottom lest he should be devoured by the dragon, clings to the 
branches of a wild bush which grows out of one of the cracks 
of the well. His hands weaken, and he feels that he must soon 
give way to certain fate ; but still he clings, and sees two mice, 
one white, the other black, evenly moving round the bush to 
which he hangs, and gnawing off its roots. 

" The traveler sees this and knows that he must inevitably 
perish ; but while thus hanging he looks about him and finds 
on the leaves of the bush some drops of honey. These he 
reaches with his tongue and licks them off with rapture. 

" Thus I hang upon the boughs of life, knowing that the 
inevitable dragon of death is waiting ready to tear me, and 
I cannot comprehend why I am thus made a martyr. I try to 
suck the honey which formerly consoled me ; but the honey 
pleases me no longer, and day and night the white mouse and 


the black mouse gnaw the branch to which I cling. I can see 
but one thing : the inevitable dragon and the mice I cannot 
turn my gaze away from them. 

" This is no fable, but the literal incontestable truth which 
every one may understand. What will be the outcome of what 
I do to-day ? Of what I shall do to-morrow ? What will be 
the outcome of all my life ? Why should I live? Why should 
I do anything? Is there in life any purpose which the inev- 
itable death which awaits me does not undo and destroy ? 

" These questions are the simplest in the world. From the 
stupid child to the wisest old man, they are in the soul of every 
human being. Without an answer to them, it is impossible, as 
I experienced, for life to go on. 

" ' But perhaps,' I often said to myself, ' there may be some- 
thing I have failed to notice or to comprehend. It is not 
possible that this condition of despair should be natural to 
mankind.' And I sought for an explanation in all the branches 
of knowledge acquired by men. I questioned painfully and 
protractedly and with no idle curiosity. I sought, not with 
indolence, but laboriously and obstinately for days and nights 
together. I sought like a man who is lost and seeks to save 
himself, and I found nothing. I became convinced, more- 
over, that all those who before me had sought for an answer in 
the sciences have also found nothing. And not only this, but 
that they have recognized that the very thing which was lead- 
ing me to despair the meaningless absurdity of life is the 
only incontestable knowledge accessible to man." 

To prove this point, Tolstoy quotes the Buddha, Solo- 
mon, and Schopenhauer. And he finds only four ways 
in which men of his own class and society are accustomed 
to meet the situation. Either mere animal blindness, 
sucking 1 the honey without seeing the dragon or the 
mice, "and from such away," he says, "lean learn 
nothing, after what I now know ; " or reflective epicurean- 
ism, snatching what it can while the day lasts, which is 
only a more deliberate sort of stupefaction like the first ; 


or manly suicide; or seeing the mice and dragon and yet 
weakly and plaintively clinging to the bush of life. 

Suicide was naturally the consistent course dictated by 
the logical intellect. 

" Yet," says Tolstoy, " whilst my intellect was working, some- 
thing else in me was working too, and kept me from the deed 
a consciousness of life, as I may call it, which was like a 
force that obliged my mind to fix itself in another direction 
and draw me out of my situation of despair. . . . During the 
whole course of this year, when I almost unceasingly kept ask- 
ing myself how to end the business, whether by the rope or by 
the bullet, during all that time, alongside of all those move- 
ments of my ideas and observations, my heart kept languishing 
with another pining emotion. I can call this by no other name 
than that of a thirst for God. This craving for God had 
nothing to do with the movement of my ideas, in fact, it was 
the direct contrary of that movement, but it came from my 
heart. It was like a feeling of dread that made me seem like 
an orphan and isolated in the midst of all these things that 
were so foreign. And this feeling of dread was mitigated by 
the hope of finding the assistance of some one." * 

Of the process, intellectual as well as emotional, which, 
starting from this idea of God, led to Tolstoy's recovery, 
I will say nothing in this lecture, reserving it for a later 
hour. The only thing that need interest us now is the 
phenomenon of his absolute disenchantment with ordi- 
nary life, and the fact that the whole range of habitual 
values may, to a man as powerful and full of faculty as 
he was, come to appear so ghastly a mockery. 

When disillusionment has gone as far as this, there is 
seldom a restitutio ad integrum. One has tasted of the 
fruit of the tree, and the happiness of Eden never comes 
again. The happiness that comes, when any does come, 

1 My extracts are from the French translation by ' ZosriA.' In abridging 
I have taken the liberty of transposing one passage. 


and often enough it fails to return in an acute form, 
though its form is sometimes very acute, is not the 
simple ignorance of ill, but something vastly more com- 
plex, including natural evil as one of its elements, but 
finding natural evil no such stumbling-block and terror 
because it now sees it swallowed up in supernatural good. 
The process is one of redemption, not of mere reversion 
to natural health, and the sufferer, when saved, is saved 
by what seems to him a second birth, a deeper kind of 
conscious being than he could enjoy before. 

We find a somewhat different type of religious melan- 
choly enshrined in literature in John Bunyan's autobio- 
graphy. Tolstoy's preoccupations were largely objective, 
for the purpose and meaning of life in general was what 
so troubled him ; but poor Bunyan's troubles were over 
the condition of his own personal self. He was a typical 
case of the psychopathic temperament, sensitive of con- 
science to a diseased degree, beset by doubts, fears, and 
insistent ideas, and a victim of verbal automatisms, both 
motor and sensory. These were usually texts of Scrip- 
ture which, sometimes damnatory and sometimes favor- 
able, would come in a half-hallucinatory form as if they 
were voices, and fasten on his mind and buffet it between 
them like a shuttlecock. Added to this were a fearful 
melancholy self-contempt and despair. 

" Nay, thought I, now I grow worse and worse ; now I am 
farther from conversion than ever I was before. If now I 
should have burned at the stake, I could not believe that Christ 
had love for me ; alas, I could neither hear him, nor see him, 
nor feel him, nor savor any of his things. Sometimes I would 
tell my condition to the people of God, which, when they heard, 
they would pity me, and would tell of the Promises. But they 
had as good have told me that I must reach the Sun with my 
finger as have bidden me receive or rely upon the Promise. 


[Yet] all this while as to the act of sinning, I never was more 
tender than now ; I durst not take a pin or stick, though but 
so big as a straw, for my conscience now was sore, and would 
smart at every touch ; I could not tell how to speak my words, 
for fear I should misplace them. Oh, how gingerly did I then 
go, in all I did or said ! I found myself as on a miry bog that 
shook if I did but stir ; and was as there left both by God and 
Christ, and the spirit, and all good things. 

" But my original and inward pollution, that was my plague 
and my affliction. By reason of that, I was more loathsome in 
my own eyes than was a toad ; and I thought I was so in God's 
eyes too. Sin and corruption, I said, would as naturally bubble 
out of my heart as water would bubble out of a fountain. I 
could have changed heart with anybody. I thought none but 
the Devil himself could equal me for inward wickedness and 
pollution of mind. Sure, thought I, I am forsaken of God ; and 
thus I continued a long while, even for some years together. 

" And now I was sorry that God had made me a man. The 
beasts, birds, fishes, etc., I blessed their condition, for they had 
not a sinful nature ; they were not obnoxious to the wrath of 
God ; they were not to go to hell-fire after death. I could 
therefore have rejoiced, had my condition been as any of 
theirs. Now I blessed the condition of the dog and toad, 
yea, gladly would I have been in the condition of the dog 
or horse, for I knew they had no soul to perish under the 
everlasting weight of Hell or Sin, as mine was like to do. 
Nay, and though I saw this, felt this, and was broken to pieces 
with it, yet that which added to my sorrow was, that I could 
not find with all my soul that I did desire deliverance. My 
heart was at times exceedingly hard. If I would have given 
a thousand pounds for a tear, I could not shed one ; no, nor 
sometimes scarce desire to shed one. 

" I was both a burthen and a terror to myself ; nor did I 
ever so know, as now, what it was to be weary of my life, and 
yet afraid to die. How gladly would I have been anything but 
myself ! Anything but a man ! and in any condition but my 
own." 1 

1 Grace abounding to the Chief of Sinners : I have printed a number of 
detached passages continuously. 


Poor patient Bunyan, like Tolstoy, saw the light again, 
but we must also postpone that part of his story to an- 
other hour. In a later lecture I will also give the end 
of the experience of Henry Alline, a devoted evangelist 
who worked in Nova Scotia a hundred years ago, and 
who thus vividly describes the high-water mark of the 
religious melancholy which formed its beginning. The 
type was not unlike Bunyan's. 

" Everything I saw seemed to be a burden to me ; the earth 
seemed accursed for my sake : all trees, plants, rocks, hills, 
and vales seemed to be dressed in mourning and groaning, 
under the weight of the curse, and everything around me 
seemed to be conspiring my ruin. My sins seemed to be laid 
open ; so that I thought that every one I saw knew them, and 
sometimes I was almost ready to acknowledge many things, 
which I thought they knew : yea sometimes it seemed to me as 
if every one was pointing me out as the most guilty wretch upon 
earth. I had now so great a sense of the vanity and emptiness 
of all things here below, that I knew the whole world could not 
possibly make me happy, no, nor the whole system of creation. 
When I waked in the morning, the first thought would be, Oh, 
my wretched soul, what shall I do, where shall I go ? And 
when I laid down, would say, I shall be perhaps in hell before 
morning. I would many times look on the beasts with envy, 
wishing with all my heart I was in their place, that I might 
have no soul to lose ; and when I have seen birds flying over 
my head, have often thought within myself, Oh, that I could 
fly away from my danger and distress ! Oh, how happy should 
I be, if I were in their place ! " 1 

Envy of the placid beasts seems to be a very wide- 
spread affection in this type of sadness. 

The worst kind of melancholy is that which takes the 

1 The Life and Journal of the Rev. Mr. Henry Alline, Boston, 1806, 
pp. 25, 26. I owe my acquaintance with this book to iny colleague, Dr. 
Benjamin Rand. 


form of panic fear. Here is an excellent example, for 
permission to print which I have to thank the sufferer. 
The original is in French, and though the subject was 
evidently in a bad nervous condition at the time of which 
he writes, his case has otherwise the merit of extreme 
simplicity. I translate freely. 

" Whilst in this state of philosophic pessimism and general 
depression of spirits about my prospects, I went one evening 
into a dressing-room in the twilight to procure some article that 
was there ; when suddenly there fell upon me without any 
warning, just as if it came out of the darkness, a horrible fear 
of my own existence. Simultaneously there arose in my mind 
the image of an epileptic patient whom I had seen in the asy- 
lum, a black-haired youth with greenish skin, entirely idiotic, 
who used to sit all day on one of the benches, or rather shelves 
against the wall, with his knees drawn up against his chin, 
and the coarse gray undershirt, which was his only garment, 
drawn over them inclosing his entire figure. He sat there like 
a sort of sculptured Egyptian cat or Peruvian mummy, moving 
nothing but his black eyes and looking absolutely non-human. 
This image and my fear entered into a species of combination 
with each other. That shape am /, I felt, potentially. Nothing 
that I possess can defend me against that fate, if the hour for 
it should strike for me as it struck for him. There was such a 
horror of him, and such a perception of my own merely momen- 
tary discrepancy from him, that it was as if something hitherto 
solid within my breast gave way entirely, and I became a mass 
of quivering fear. After this the universe was changed for me 
altogether. I awoke morning after morning with a horrible 
dread at the pit of my stomach, and with a sense of the inse- 
curity of life that I never knew before, and that I have never 
felt since. 1 It was like a revelation ; and although the irnme- 

1 Compare Bunyan : " There was I struck into a very great trembling, 
insomuch that at some times I could, for days together, feel my very body, 
as well as my mind, to shake and totter under the sense of the dreadful 
judgment of God, that should fall on those that have sinned that most fear- 
ful and unpardonable sin. I felt also such clogging and heat at my stom- 


diate feelings passed away, the experience has made me sympa- 
thetic with the morbid feelings of others ever since. It grad- 
ually faded, but for months I was unable to go out into the 
dark alone. 

"In general I dreaded to be left alone. I remember won- 
dering how other people could live, how I myself had ever 
lived, so unconscious of that pit of insecurity beneath the sur- 
face of life. My mother in particular, a very cheerful per- 
son, seemed to me a perfect paradox in her unconsciousness of 
danger, which you may well believe I was very careful not to 
disturb by revelations of my own state of mind. I have always 
thought that this experience of melancholia of mine had a reli- 
gious bearing." 

On asking this correspondent to explain more fully 
what he meant by these last words, the answer he wrote 
was this : 

" I mean that the fear was so invasive and powerful that if I 
had not clung to scripture-texts like ' The eternal God is my 
refuge,' etc., ' Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy- 
laden,' etc., ' I am the resurrection and the life,' etc., I think I 
should have grown really insane." * 

There is no need of more examples. The cases we 
have looked at are enough. One of them gives us the 
vanity of mortal things ; another the sense of sin ; and 
the remaining one describes the fear of the universe ; 
and in one or other of these three ways it always is that 
man's original optimism and self-satisfaction get leveled 
with the dust. 

In none of these cases was there any intellectual insan- 

ach, by reason of this my terror, that I was, especially at some times, as if 
my breast-bone would have split asunder. . . . Thus did I wind, and twine, 
and shrink, under the burden that was upon me ; which burden also did 
so oppress me that I could neither stand, nor go, nor lie, either at rest or 

1 For another case of fear equally sudden, see Henry James : Society 
the Redeemed Form of Man, Boston, 1879, pp. 43 ff. 


ity or delusion about matters of fact ; but were we dis- 
posed to open the chapter of really insane melancholia, 
with its hallucinations and delusions, it would be a worse 
story still desperation absolute and complete, the whole 
universe coagulating about the sufferer into a material of 
overwhelming horror, surrounding him without opening 
or end. Not the conception or intellectual perception of 
evil, but the grisly blood-freezing heart-palsying sensation 
of it close upon one, and no other conception or sensation 
able to live for a moment in its presence. How irrele- 
vantly remote seem all our usual refined optimisms and 
intellectual and moral consolations in presence of a need 
of help like this ! Here is the real core of the religious 
problem : Help ! help ! No prophet can claim to bring 
a final message unless he says things that will have a 
sound of reality in the ears of victims such as these. 
But the deliverance must come in as strong a form as 
the complaint, if it is to take effect ; and that seems a 
reason why the coarser religions, revivalistic, orgiastic, 
with blood and miracles and supernatural operations, may 
possibly never be displaced. Some constitutions need 
them too much. 

Arrived at this point, we can see how great an antag- 
onism may naturally arise between the healthy-minded 
way of viewing life and the way that takes all this expe- 
rience of evil as something essential. To this latter 
way, the morbid-minded way, as we might call it, healthy- 
mindedness pure and simple seems unspeakably blind and 
shallow. To the healthy-minded way, on the other hand, 
the way of the sick soul seems unmanly and diseased. 
With their grubbing in rat-holes instead of living in the 
light ; with their manufacture of fears, and preoccupation 
with every unwholesome kind of misery, there is some- 


thinsf almost obscene about these children of wrath and 
cravers of a second birth. If religious intolerance and 
hanging and burning could again become the order of 
the day, there is little doubt that, however it may have 
been in the past, the healthy-minded would at present 
show themselves the less indulgent party of the two. 

In our own attitude, not yet abandoned, of impartial 
onlookers, what are we to say of this quarrel ? It seems 
to me that we are bound to say that morbid-mindedness 
ranges over the wider scale of experience, and that its 
survey is the one that overlaps. The method of avert- 
ing one's attention from evil, and living simply in the 
light of good is splendid as long as it will work. It will 
work with many persons ; it will work far more gener- 
ally than most of us are ready to suppose ; and within 
the sphere of its successful operation there is nothing to 
be said against it as a religious solution. But it breaks 
down impotently as soon as melancholy comes ; and even 
though one be quite free from melancholy one's self, there 
is no doubt that healthy-mindedness is inadequate as a 
philosophical doctrine, because the evil facts which it 
refuses positively to account for are a genuine portion 
of reality ; and they may after all be the best key to life's 
significance, and possibly the only openers of our eyes to 
the deepest levels of truth. 

The normal process of life contains moments as bad 
as any of those which insane melancholy is filled with, 
moments in which radical evil gets its innings and takes 
its solid turn. The lunatic's visions of horror are all 
drawn from the material of daily fact. Our civilization 
is founded on the shambles, and every individual exist- 
ence goes out in a lonely spasm of helpless agony. If 
you protest, my friend, wait till you arrive there your- 
self ! To believe in the carnivorous reptiles of geologic 


times is hard for our imagination they seem too much 
like mere museum specimens. Yet there is no tooth in 
any one of those museum - skulls that did not daily 
through long years of the foretime hold fast to the body 
struggling in despair of some fated living victim. Forms 
of horror just as dreadful to their victims, if on a smaller 
spatial scale, fill the world about us to-day. Here on our 
very hearths and in our gardens the infernal cat plays 
with the panting mouse, or holds the hot bird fluttering 
in her jaws. Crocodiles and rattlesnakes and pythons 
are at this moment vessels of life as real as we are ; their 
loathsome existence fills every minute of every day that 
drags its length along ; and whenever they or other wild 
beasts clutch their living prey, the deadly horror which 
an agitated melancholiac feels is the literally right reac- 
tion on the situation. 1 

It may indeed be that no religious reconciliation with 
the absolute totality of things is possible. Some evils, 
indeed, are ministerial to higher forms of good ; but it 

1 Example : " It was about eleven o'clock at night . . . but I strolled 
on still with the people. . . . Suddenly upon the left side of our road, a 
crackling was heard among the bushes ; all of us were alarmed, and in an 
instant a tiger, rushing out of the jungle, pounced upon the one of the party 
that was foremost, and carried him off in the twinkling of an eye. The rush 
of the animal, and the crush of the poor victim's bones in his mouth, and his 
last cry of distress, ' Ho hai ! ' involuntarily reechoed by all of us, was over 
in three seconds ; and then I know not what happened till I returned to my 
senses, when I found myself and companions lying down on the ground as if 
prepared to be devoured by our enemy, the sovereign of the forest. I find 
my pen incapable of describing the terror of that dreadful moment. Our 
limbs stiffened, our power of speech ceased, and our hearts beat violently, 
and only a whisper of the same ' Ho hai ! ' was heard from us. In this 
state we crept on all fours for some distance back, and then ran for life 
with the speed of an Arab horse for about half an hour, and fortunately 
happened to come to a small village. . . . After this every one of us was 
attacked with fever, attended with shivering, in which deplorable state we 
remained till morning." Autobiography of Lutfullah, a Mohammedan 
Gentleman, Leipzig, 1857, p. 112. 


may be that there are forms of evil so extreme as to enter 
into no good system whatsoever, and that, in respect of 
such evil, dumb submission or neglect to notice is the 
only practical resource. This question must confront us 
on a later day. But provisionally, and as a mere matter 
of program and method, since the evil facts are as genuine 
parts of nature as the good ones, the philosophic pre- 
sumption should be that they have some rational signifi- 
cance, and that systematic healthy-mindedness, failing as 
it does to accord to sorrow, pain, and death any positive 
and active attention whatever, is formally less complete 
than systems that try at least to include these elements in 
their scope. 

The completest religions would therefore seem to be 
those in which the pessimistic elements are best devel- 
oped. Buddhism, of course, and Christianity are the 
best known to us of these. They are essentially religions 
of deliverance : the man must die to an unreal life before 
he can be born into the real life. In my next lecture, I 
will try to discuss some of the psychological conditions 
of this second birth. Fortunately from now onward 
we shall have to deal with more cheerful subjects than 
those which we have recently been dwelling on. 




THE last lecture was a painful one, dealing as it did 
with evil as a pervasive element of the world we 
live in. At the close of it we were brought into full 
view of the contrast between the two ways of looking 
at life which are characteristic respectively of what we 
called the healthy-minded, who need to be born only 
once, and of the sick souls, who must be twice-born in 
order to be happy. The result is two different con- 
ceptions of the universe of our experience. In the re- 
ligion of the once-born the world is a sort of rectilinear 
or one-storied affair, whose accounts are kept in one de- 
nomination, whose parts have just the values which natu- 
rally they appear to have, and of which a simple alge- 
braic sum of pluses and minuses will give the total worth. 
Happiness and religious peace consist in living on the 
plus side of the account. In the religion of the twice- 
born, on the other hand, the world is a double-storied 
mystery. Peace cannot be reached by the simple addition 
of pluses and elimination of minuses from life. Natural 
good is not simply insufficient in amount and transient, 
there lurks a falsity in its very being. Cancelled as it 
all is by death if not by earlier enemies, it gives no final 
balance, and can never be the thing intended for our last- 
ing worship. It keeps us from our real good, rather ; 
and renunciation and despair of it are our first step in 
the direction of the truth. There are two lives, the nat- 


ural and the spiritual, and we must lose the one before 
we can participate in the other. 

In their extreme forms, of pure naturalism and pure 
salvationism, the two types are violently contrasted ; 
though here as in most other current classifications, the 
radical extremes are somewhat ideal abstractions, and the 
concrete human beings whom we oftenest meet are inter- 
mediate varieties and mixtures. Practically, however, 
you all recognize the difference : you understand, for ex- 
anrple, the disdain of the methodist convert for the mere 
sky-blue healthy-minded moralist ; and you likewise enter 
into the aversion of the latter to what seems to him the 
diseased subjectivism of the Methodist, dying to live, as 
he calls it, and making of paradox and the inversion of 
natural appearances the essence of God's truth. 1 

The psychological basis of the twice-born character 
seems to be a certain discordancy or heterogeneity in the 
native temperament of the subject, an incompletely uni- 
fied moral and intellectual constitution. 

" Homo duplex, homo duplex ! " writes Alplionse Daudet. 
" The first time that I perceived that I was two was at the 
death of my brother Henri, when my father cried out so dra- 
matically, ' He is dead, he is dead ! ' While my first self wept, 
my second self thought, ' How truly given was that cry, how 
fine it would be at the theatre.' I was then fourteen years 

" This horrible duality has often given me matter for reflec- 
tion. Oh, this terrible second me, always seated whilst the 
other is on foot, acting, living, suffering, bestirring itself. This 

1 E. g., " Our young people are diseased with the theological problems 
of original sin, origin of evil, predestination, and the like. These never 
presented a practical difficulty to any man never darkened across any 
man's road, who did not go out of his way to seek them. These are the 
soul's mumps, and measles, and whooping-coughs," etc. Emerson : ' Spir- 
itual Laws.' 


second me that I have never been able to intoxicate, to make 
shed tears, or put to sleep. And how it sees into things, and 
how it mocks ! " 1 

Recent works on the psychology of character have 
had much to say upon this point. 2 Some persons are 
born with an inner constitution which is harmonious and 
well balanced from the outset. Their impulses are con- 
sistent with one another, their will follows without 
trouble the guidance of their intellect, their passions 
are not excessive, and their lives are little haunted by 
regrets. Others are oppositely constituted ; and are so 
in degrees which may vary from something so slight as 
to result in a merely odd or whimsical inconsistency, 
to a discordancy of which the consequences may be in- 
convenient in the extreme. Of the more innocent kinds 
of heterogeneity I find a good example in Mrs. Annie 
Besant's autobiography. 

"I have ever been the queerest mixture of weakness and 
strength, and have paid heavily for the weakness. As a child 
I used to suffer tortures of shyness, and if my shoe-lace was 
untied would feel shamefacedly that every eye was fixed on 
the unlucky string ; as a girl I would shrink away from stran- 
gers and think myself unwanted and unliked, so that I was full 
of eager gratitude to any one who noticed me kindly ; as the 
young mistress of a house I was afraid of my servants, and 
would let careless work pass rather than bear the pain of 
reproving the ill-doer ; when I have been lecturing and debat- 
ing with no lack of spirit on the platform, I have preferred to go 
without what I wanted at the hotel rather than to ring and make 
the waiter fetch it. Combative on the platform in defense of 
any cause I cared for, I shrink from quarrel or disapproval in 
the house, and am a coward at heart in private while a good 

1 Notes sur la Vie, p. 1. 

2 See, for example, F. Paulhan, in his book Les Caracteres, 1894, who 
contrasts les Equilibre's, les Unifie's, with les Inqniets, les Contrariants, les 
Incohe'rents, les Emiette's, as so many diverse psychic types. 


fighter in public. How often have I passed unhappy quarters 
of an hour screwing up my courage to find fault with some 
subordinate whom my duty compelled me to reprove, and how 
often have I jeered at myself for a fraud as the doughty plat- 
form combatant, when shrinking from blaming some lad or lass 
for doing their work badly. An unkind look or word has 
availed to make me shrink into myself as a snail into its shell, 
while, on the platform, opposition makes me speak my best." 1 

This amount of inconsistency will only count as ami- 
able weakness ; but a stronger degree of heterogeneity 
may make havoc of the subject's life. There are per- 
sons whose existence is little more than a series of zig- 
zags, as now one tendency and now another gets the 
upper hand. Their spirit wars with their flesh, they 
wish for incompatibles, wayward impulses interrupt their 
most deliberate plans, and their lives are one long drama 
of repentance and of effort to repair misdemeanors and 

Heterogeneous personality has been explained as the 
result of inheritance the traits of. character of incom- 
patible and antagonistic ancestors are supposed to be 
preserved alongside of each other. 2 This explanation 
may pass for what it is worth it certainly needs cor- 
roboration. But whatever the cause of heterogeneous 
personality may be, we find the extreme examples of it 
in the psychopathic temperament, of which I spoke in my 
first lecture. All writers about that temperament make 
the inner heterogeneity prominent in their descriptions. 
Frequently, indeed, it is only this trait that leads us to 
ascribe that temperament to a man at all. A ' dege- 
nere superieur ' is simply a man of sensibility in many 
directions, who finds more difficulty than is common in 

1 Annie Besant : an Autobiography, p. 82. 

2 Smith Baker, in Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, September, 


keeping his spiritual house in order and running his fur- 
row straight, because his feelings and impulses are too 
keen and too discrepant mutually. In the haunting and 
insistent ideas, in the irrational impulses, the morbid 
scruples, dreads, and inhibitions which beset the psycho- 
pathic temperament when it is thoroughly pronounced, 
we have exquisite examples of heterogeneous personality. 
Bunyan had an obsession of the words, " Sell Christ for 
this, sell him for that, sell him, sell him!" which would 
run through his mind a hundred times together, until one 
day out of breath with retorting, " I will not, I will not," 
he impulsively said, " Let him go if he will," and this 
loss of the battle kept him in despair for over a year. 
The lives of the saints are full of such blasphemous 
obsessions, ascribed invariably to the direct agency of 
Satan. The phenomenon connects itself with the life of 
the subconscious self, so-called, of which we must ere- 
long speak more directly. 

Now in all of us, however constituted, but to a degree 
the greater in proportion as we are intense and sensitive 
and subject to diversified temptations, and to the greatest 
possible degree if we are decidedly psychopathic, does 
the normal evolution of character chiefly consist in the 
straightening out and unifying of the inner self. The 
higher and the lower feelings, the useful and the erring 
impulses, begin by being a comparative chaos within us 
they must end by forming a stable system of functions 
in right subordination. Unhappiness is apt to character- 
ize the period of order-making and struggle. If the indi- 
vidual be of tender conscience and religiously quickened, 
the unhappiness will take the form of moral remorse and 
compunction, of feeling inwardly vile and wrong, and of 
standing; in false relations to the author of one's beino- 
and appointer of one's spiritual fate. This is the reli- 


gious melancholy and ' conviction of sin ' that have played 
so large a part in the history of Protestant Christianity. 
The man's interior is a battle-ground for what he feels to 
be two deadly hostile selves, one actual, the other ideal. 
As Victor Hugo makes his Mahomet say : 

" Je suis le lieu vil des sublimes combats : 
Tantot l'homme d'en haut, et tantot l'bomme d'eu bas ; 
Et le mal dans ma boucbe avec le bien alterne, 
Comme daus le ddsert le sable et la citerue." 

Wrong living, impotent aspirations ; " What I would, that 
do I not ; but what I hate, that do I," as Saint Paul says ; 
self-loathing, self-despair ; an unintelligible and intoler- 
able burden to which one is mysteriously the heir. 

Let me quote from some typical cases of discordant 
personality, with melancholy in the form of self-condem- 
nation and sense of sin. Saint Augustine's case is a classic 
example. You all remember his half-pagan, half-Chris- 
tian bringing up at Carthage, his emigration to Rome and 
Milan, his adoption of Manicheism and subsequent skep- 
ticism, and his restless search for truth and purity of life ; 
and finally how, distracted by the struggle between the 
two souls in his breast, and ashamed of his own weak- 
ness of will, when so many others whom he knew and 
knew of had thrown off the shackles of sensuality and 
dedicated themselves to chastity and the higher life, he 
heard a voice in the garden say, " Sume, lege" (take and 
read), and opening the Bible at random, saw the text, 
" not in chambering and wantonness," etc., which seemed 
directly sent to his address, and laid the inner storm 
to rest forever. 1 Augustine's psychological genius has 

1 Louis Gourdon (Essai sur la Conversion de Saint Augustine, Paris, 
Fischbacher, 1900) has shown by an analysis of Augustine's writings imme- 
diately after the date of his conversion (a. d. 386) that the account he gives 
in the Confessions is premature. The crisis in the garden marked a defini- 
tive conversion from his former life, but it was to the ueo-platonic spiritualism 


given an account of the trouble of having a divided self 
which has never been surpassed. 

" The new will which I began to have was not yet strong 
enough to overcome that other will, strengthened by long in- 
dulgence. So these two wills, one old, one new, one carnal, the 
other spiritual, contended with each other and disturbed my 
soul. I understood by my own experience what I had read, 
' flesh lusteth against spirit, and spirit against flesh.' It was 
myself indeed in both the wills, yet more myself in that which 
I approved in myself than in that which I disapproved in my- 
self. Yet it was through myself that habit had attained so 
fierce a mastery over me, because I had willingly come whither 
I willed not. Still bound to earth, I refused, O God, to fight 
on thy side, as much afraid to be freed from all bonds, as I 
ought to have feared being trammeled by them. 

" Thus the thoughts by which I meditated upon thee were 
like the efforts of one who would awake, but being overpowered 
with sleepiness is soon asleep again. Often does a man when 
heavy sleepiness is on his limbs defer to shake it off, and though 
not approving it, encourage it ; even so I was sure it was better 
to surrender to thy love than to yield to my own lusts, yet, though 
the former course convinced me, the latter pleased and held me 
bound. There was naught in me to answer thy call, ' Awake, 
thou sleeper,' but only drawling, drowsy words, ' Presently ; yes, 
presently ; wait a little while.' But the ' presently ' had no 
' present,' and the ' little while ' grew long. . . . For I was afraid 
thou wouldst hear me too soon, and heal me at once of my dis- 
ease of lust, which I wished to satiate rather than to see extin- 
guished. With what lashes of words did I not scourge my own 
soul. Yet it shrank back ; it refused, though it had no excuse 
to offer. ... I said within myself : ' Come, let it be done now,' 
and as I said it, I was on the point of the resolve. I all but 
did it, yet I did not do it. And I made another effort, and 
almost succeeded, yet I did not reach it, and did not grasp it, 
hesitating to die to death, and live to life ; and the evil to which 

and only a halfway stage toward Christianity. The latter he appears not 
fully and radically to have embraced until four years more had passed. 


I was so wonted held me more than the better life I had not 
tried." 1 

There could be no more perfect description of the 
divided will, when the higher wishes lack just that last 
acuteness, that touch of explosive intensity, of dynamo- 
genie quality (to use the slang of the psychologists), that 
enables them to burst their shell, and make irruption 
efficaciously into life and quell the lower tendencies for- 
ever. In a later lecture we shall have much to say 
about this higher excitability. 

I find another good description of the divided will in 
the autobiography of Henry Alline, the Nova Scotian 
evangelist, of whose melancholy I read a brief account in 
my last lecture. The poor youth's sins were, as you will 
see, of the most harmless order, yet they interfered with 
what proved to be his truest vocation, so they gave him 
great distress. 

" I was now very moral in my life, but found no rest of con- 
science. I now began to be esteemed in young company, who 
knew nothing of my mind all this while, and their esteem began 
to be a snare to my soul, for I soon began to be fond of carnal 
mirth, though I still flattered myself that if I did not get drunk, 
nor curse, nor swear, there would be no sin in frolicking and 
carnal mirth, and I thought God would indulge young people 
with some (what I called simple or civil) recreation. I still 
kept a round of duties, and would not suffer myself to run into 
any open vices, and so got along very well in time of health 
and prosperity, but when I was distressed or threatened by 
sickness, death, or heavy storms of thunder, my religion would 
not do, and I found there was something wanting, and would 
begin to repent my going so much to frolics, but when the 
distress was over, the devil and my own wicked heart, with the 
solicitations of my associates, and my fondness for young com- 
1 Confessions, Book VIII., chaps, v., vii., xi., abridged. 


pany, were such strong allurements, I would again give way, 
and thus I got to be very wild and rude, at the same time kept 
up my rounds of secret prayer and reading ; but God, not will- 
ing I should destroy myself, still followed me with his calls, and 
moved with such power upon my conscience, that I could not 
satisfy myself with my diversions, and in the midst of my mirth 
sometimes would have such a sense of my lost and undone con- 
dition, that I would wish myself from the company, and after 
it was over, when I went home, would make many promises 
that I would attend no more on these frolics, and would beg 
forgiveness for hours and hours ; but when I came to have the 
temptation again, I would give way : no sooner would I hear 
the music and drink a glass of wine, but I would find my mind 
elevated and soon proceed to any sort of merriment or diver- 
sion, that I thought was not debauched or openly vicious ; but 
when I returned from my carnal mirth I felt as guilty as ever, 
and could sometimes not close my eyes for some hours after I 
had gone to my bed. I was one of the most unhappy creatures 
on earth. 

" Sometimes I would leave the company (often speaking to 
the fiddler to cease from playing, as if I was tired), and go out 
and walk about crying and praying, as if my very heart would 
break, and beseeching God that he would not cut me off, nor 
give me up to hardness of heart. Oh, what unhappy hours and 
nights I thus wore away ! When I met sometimes with merry 
companions, and my heart was ready to sink, I would labor 
to put on as cheerful a countenance as possible, that they might 
not distrust anything, and sometimes would begin some dis- 
course with young men or young women on purpose, or propose 
a merry song, lest the distress of my soul would be discovered, 
or mistrusted, when at the same time I would then rather have 
been in a wilderness in exile, than with them or any of their 
pleasures or enjoyments. Thus for many months when I was 
in company, I would act the hypocrite and feign a merry heart, 
but at the same time would endeavor as much as I could to 
shun their company, oh wretched and unhappy mortal that I 
was ! Everything I did, and wherever I went, I was still in a 
storm, and yet I continued to be the chief contriver and ring- 


leader of the frolics for many months after ; though it was a 
toil and torment to attend them ; but the devil and my own 
wicked heart drove me about like a slave, telling me that I 
must do this and do that, and bear this and bear that, and turn 
here and turn there, to keep my credit up, and retain the 
esteem of my associates : and all this while I continued as strict 
as possible in my duties, and left no stone unturned to pacify 
my conscience, watching even against my thoughts, and praying 
continually wherever I went : for I did not think there was any 
sin in my conduct, when I was among carnal company, because 
I did not take any satisfaction there, but only followed it, I 
thought, for sufficient reasons. 

" But still, all that I did or could do, conscience would roar 
night and day." 

Saint Augustine and Alline both emerged into the 
smooth waters of inner unity and peace, and I shall next 
ask you to consider more closely some of the peculiarities 
of the process of unification, when it occurs. It may 
come gradually, or it may occur abruptly ; it may come 
through altered feelings, or through altered powers of 
action ; or it may come through new intellectual insights, 
or through experiences which we shall later have to desig- 
nate as i mystical.' However it come, it brings a char- 
acteristic sort of relief ; and never such extreme relief as 
when it is cast into the religious mould. Happiness ! 
happiness ! religion is only one of the ways in which men 
gain that gift. Easily, permanently, and successfully, 
it often transforms the most intolerable misery into the 
profoundest and most enduring happiness. 

But to find religion is only one out of many ways 
of reaching unity ; and the process of remedying inner 
incompleteness and reducing inner discord is a general 
psychological process, which may take place with any sort 
of mental material, and need not necessarily assume the 
religious form. In judging of the religious types of 


regeneration which we are about to study, it is important 
to recognize that they are only one species of a genus 
that contains other types as well. For example, the new 
birth may be away from religion into incredulity ; or it 
may be from moral scrupulosity into freedom and license ; 
or it may be produced by the irruption into the individ- 
ual's life of some new stimulus or passion, such as love, 
ambition, cupidity, revenge, or patriotic devotion. In all 
these instances we have precisely the same psychological 
form of event, a firmness, stability, and equilibrium 
succeeding a period of storm and stress and inconsistency. 
In these non-religious cases the new man may also be 
born either gradually or suddenly. 

The French philosopher Jouffroy has left an eloquent 
memorial of his own ' counter-conversion,' as the transi- 
tion from orthodoxy to infidelity has been well styled 
by Mr. Starbuck. Jouffroy's doubts had long harassed 
him ; but he dates his final crisis from a certain night 
when his disbelief grew fixed and stable, and where the 
immediate result was sadness at the illusions he had lost. 

" I shall never forget that night of December," writes Jouf- 
froy, " in which the veil that concealed from me my own in- 
credulity was torn. I hear again my steps in that narrow 
naked chamber where long after the hour of sleep had come I 
had the habit of walking up and down. I see again that moon, 
half-veiled by clouds, which now and again illuminated the 
frigid window-panes. The hours of the night flowed on and I 
did not note their passage. Anxiously I followed my thoughts, 
as from layer to layer they descended towards the foundation 
of my consciousness, and, scattering one by one all the illusions 
which until then had screened its windings from my view, made 
them every moment more clearly visible. 

" Vainly I clung to these last beliefs as a shipwrecked sailor 
clings to the fragments of his vessel ; vainly, frightened at the 
unknown void in which I was about to float, I turned with them 


towards my childhood, my family, my country, all that was 
dear and sacred to me : the inflexible current of my thought 
was too strong, parents, family, memory, beliefs, it forced me 
to let go of everything. The investigation went on more obsti- 
nate and more severe as it drew near its term, and did not stop 
until the end was reached. I knew then that in the depth of 
my mind nothing was left that stood erect. 

" This moment was a frightful one ; and when towards morn- 
ing I threw myself exhausted on my bed, I seemed to feel my 
earlier life, so smiling and so full, go out like a fire, and before 
me another life opened, sombre and unpeopled, where in future 
I must live alone, alone with my fatal thought which had exiled 
me thither, and which I was tempted to curse. The days which 
followed this discovery were the saddest of my life." x 

1 Th. Jouffroy: Nouveaux Melanges philosophiques, 2me edition, p. 83. 
I add two other cases of counter-conversion dating from a certain moment. 
The first is from Professor Starbuck's manuscript collection, and the nar- 
rator is a woman. 

" Away down in the bottom of my heart, I believe I was always more or 
less skeptical about God;' skepticism grew as an undercurrent, all through 
my early youth, but it was controlled and covered by the emotional ele- 
ments in my religious growth. When I was sixteen I joined the church 
and was asked if I loved God. I replied ' Yes,' as was customary and 
expected. But instantly with a flash something spoke within me, ' No, 
you do not.' I was haunted for a long time with shame and remorse for 
my falsehood and for my wickedness in not loving God, mingled with fear 
that there might be an avenging God who would punish me in some terrible 
way. ... At nineteen, I had an attack of tonsilitis. Before I had quite 
recovered, I heard told a story of a brute who had kicked his wife down- 
stairs, and then continued the operation until she became insensible. I felt 
the horror of the thing keenly. Instantly this thought flashed through my 
mind: ' I have no use for a God who permits such things.' This experience 
was followed by months of stoical indifference to the God of my previous 
life, mingled with feelings of positive dislike and a somewhat proud defiance 
of him. I still thought there might be a God. If so he would probably 
damn me, but I should have to stand it. I felt very little fear and no 
desire to propitiate him. I have never had any personal relations with him 
since this painful experience." 

The second case exemplifies how small an additional stimulus will over- 
throw the mind into a new state of equilibrium when the process of prepa- 
ration and incubation has proceeded far enough. It is like the proverbial 
last straw added to the camel's burden, or that touch of a needle which 


In John Foster's Essay on Decision of Character, there 
is an account of a case of sudden conversion to avarice, 
which is illustrative enough to quote : 

A young man, it appears, " wasted, in two or three years, a 
large patrimony in profligate revels with a number of worthless 
associates who called themselves his friends, and who, when his 
last means were exhausted, treated him of course with neglect 
or contempt. Reduced to absolute want, he one clay went out 
of the house with an intention to put an end to his life ; but 
wandering awhile almost unconsciously, he came to the brow of 
an eminence which overlooked what were lately his estates. 
Here he sat down, and remained fixed in thought a number of 
hours, at the end of which he sprang from the ground with a 
vehement, exulting emotion. He had formed his resolution, 
which was, that all these estates should be his again ; he had 
formed his plan, too, which he instantly began to execute. He 
walked hastily forward, determined to seize the first opportu- 
nity, of however humble a kind, to gain any money, though it 
were ever so despicable a trifle, and resolved absolutely not to 

makes the salt in a supersaturated fluid suddenly begin to crystallize 

Tolstoy writes : " S., a frank and intelligent man, told me as follows bow 
he ceased to believe : 

" He was twenty-six years old when one day on a hunting expedition, the 
time for sleep baving come, he set himself to pray according to the custom 
be had held from childhood. 

" His brother, who was hunting with him, lay upon the hay and looked at 
him. When S. had finished bis prayer and was turning to sleep, the brother 
said, ' Do you still keep up that thing ? ' Nothing more was said. But 
since that day, now more than thirty years ago, S. has never prayed again ; 
he never takes communion, and does not go to church. All this, not be- 
cause he became acquainted with convictions of bis brother which he then 
and there adopted ; not because he made any new resolution in his soul, 
but merely because the words spoken by his brother were like the light 
push of a finger against a leaning wall already about to tumble by its own 
weight. These words but showed him that the place wherein he supposed 
religion dwelt in him had long been empty, and that the sentences he 
uttered, the crosses and bows which he made during his prayer, were ac- 
tions with no inner sense. Having once seized their absurdity, he could 
no longer keep them up." Ma Confession, p. 8. 


spend, if he could help it, a farthing of whatever he might 
obtain. The first thing that drew his attention was a heap of 
coals shot out of carts on the pavement before a house. He 
offered himself to shovel or wheel them into the place where 
they were to be laid, aud was employed. He received a few 
pence for the labor ; and then, in pursuance of the saving part 
of his plan, requested some small gratuity of meat and drink, 
which was given him. He then looked out for the next thing 
that might chance ; and went, with indefatigable industry, 
through a succession of servile employments in different places, 
of longer and shorter duration, still scrupulous in avoiding, as 
far as possible, the expense of a penny. He promptly seized 
every opportunity which could advance his design, without re- 
garding the meanness of occupation or appearance. By this 
method he had gained, after a considerable time, money enough 
to purchase in order to sell again a few cattle, of which he had 
taken pains to understand the value. He speedily but cau- 
tiously turned his first gains into second advantages ; retained 
without a single deviation his extreme parsimony ; and thus 
advanced by degrees into larger transactions and incipient 
wealth. I did not hear, or have forgotten, the continued 
course of his life, but the final result was, that he more than 
recovered his lost possessions, and died an inveterate miser, 
worth 60,000." 1 

1 Op. cit., Letter III., abridged. 

I subjoin an additional document wbich bas come into my possession, 
and whicb represents in a vivid way what is probably a very frequent sort 
of conversion, if the opposite of ' falling in love,' falling out of love, may 
be so termed. Falling in love also conforms frequently to this type, a 
latent process of unconscious preparation often preceding a sudden awaken- 
ing to the fact that the mischief is irretrievably done. The free and easy 
tone in this narrative gives it a sincerity that speaks for itself. 

" For two years of this time I went through a very bad experience, which 
almost drove me mad. I had fallen violently in love with a girl who, 
young as she was, had a spirit of coquetry like a cat. As I look back on 
her now, I hate her, and wonder how I could ever have fallen so low as to 
be worked upon to such an extent by her attractions. Nevertheless, I fell 
into a regular fever, could think of nothing else ; whenever I was alone, I 
pictured her attractions, and spent most of the time when I should have 
been working, in recalling our previous interviews, and imagining future 
conversations. She was very pretty, good humored, and jolly to the last 


Let me turn now to the kind of case, the religious 
case, namely, that immediately concerns us. Here is one of 

degree, and intensely pleased with my admiration. Would give me no de- 
cided answer yes or no, and the queer thing about it was that whilst pursu- 
ing her for her hand, I secretly knew all along that she was unfit to be a 
wife for me, and that she never would say yes. Although for a year we 
took our meals at the same boarding-house, so that I saw her continually 
and familiarly, our closer relations had to be largely on the sly, and this 
fact, together with my jealousy of another one of her male admirers, and 
my own conscience despising me for my uncontrollable weakness, made me so 
nervous and sleepless that I really thought I should become insane. I under- 
stand well those young men murdering their sweethearts, which appear so 
often in the papers. Nevertheless I did love her passionately, and in some 
ways she did deserve it. 

" The queer thing was the sudden and unexpected way in which it all 
stopped. I was going to my work after breakfast one morning, thinking as 
usual of her and of my misery, when, just as if some outside power laid 
hold of me, I found myself turning round and almost running to my room, 
where I immediately got out all the relics of her which I possessed, includ- 
ing some hair, all her notes and letters, and ambrotypes on glass. The 
former I made a fire of, the latter I actually crushed beneath my heel, in a 
sort of fierce joy of revenge and punishment. I now loathed and despised 
her altogether, and as for myself I felt as if a load of disease had suddenly 
been removed from me. That was the end. I never spoke to her or wrote 
to her again in all the subsequent years, and I have never had a single mo- 
ment of loving thought towards one who for so many months entirely filled 
my heart. In fact, I have always rather hated her memory, though now I 
can see that I had gone unnecessarily far in that direction. At any rate, 
from that happy morning onward I regained possession of my own proper 
soul, and have never since fallen into any similar trap." 

This seems to me an unusually clear example of two different levels of 
personality, inconsistent in their dictates, yet so well balanced against each 
other as for a long time to fill the life with discord and dissatisfaction. At 
last, not gradually, but in a sudden crisis, the unstable equilibrium is re- 
solved, and this happens so unexpectedly that it is as if, to use the writer's 
words, " some outside power laid hold." 

Professor Starbuck gives an analogous case, and a converse case of hatred 
suddenly turning into love, in his Psychology of Religion, p. 141. Com- 
pare the other highly curious instances which he gives on pp. 137-144, of 
sudden non-religious alterations of habit or character. He seems right in 
conceiving all such sudden changes as results of special cerebral functions 
unconsciously developing until they are ready to play a controlling part, 
when they make irruption into the conscious life. When we treat of sud- 
den ' conversion,' I shall make as much use as I can of this hypothesis of 
subconscious incubation. 


the simplest possible type, an account of the conversion 
to the systematic religion of healthy-mindedness of a man 
who must already have been naturally of the healthy- 
minded type. It shows how, when the fruit is ripe, a 
touch will make it fall. 

Mr. Horace Fletcher, in his little book called Menti- 
culture, relates that a friend with whom he was talking 
of the self-control attained by the Japanese through their 
practice of the Buddhist discipline said : 

" ' You must first get rid of anger and worry.' ' But,' said 
I, ' is that possible ? ' ' Yes,' replied he ; ' it is possible to the 
Japanese, and ought to be possible to us.' 

" On my way back I could think of nothing else but the 
words ' get rid, get rid ' ; and the idea must have continued to 
possess me during my sleeping hours, for the first consciousness 
in the morning brought back the same thought, with the revela- 
tion of a discovery, which framed itself into the reasoning, ' If 
it is possible to get rid of anger and worry, why is it necessary 
to have them at all ? ' I felt the strength of the argument, and 
at once accepted the reasoning. The baby had discovered that 
it could walk. It would scorn to creep any longer. 

" From the instant I realized that these cancer spots of worry 
and anger were removable, they left me. With the discovery 
of their weakness they were exorcised. From that time life has 
had an entirely different aspect. 

" Although from that moment the possibility and desirability 
of freedom from the depressing passions has been a reality to 
me, it took me some months to feel absolute security in my new 
position ; but, as the usual occasions for worry and anger have 
presented themselves over and over again, and I have been 
unable to feel them in the slightest degree, I no longer dread 
or guard against them, and I am amazed at my increased energy 
and vigor of mind ; at my strength to meet situations of all 
kinds, and at my disposition to love and appreciate everything. 

" I have had occasion to travel more than ten thousand miles 
by rail since that morning. The same Pullman porter, con- 
ductor, hotel- waiter, peddler, book-agent, cabman, and others 


who were formerly a source of annoyance and irritation have 
been met, but I am not conscious of a single incivility. All at 
once the whole world has turned good to me. I have become, 
as it were, sensitive only to the rays of good. 

" I could recount many experiences which prove a brand-new 
condition of mind, but one will be sufficient. Without the 
slightest feeling of annoyance or impatience, I have seen a 
train that I had planned to take with a good deal of interested 
and pleasurable anticipation move out of the station without 
me, because my baggage did not arrive. The porter fi-om the 
hotel came running and panting into the station just as the train 
pulled out of sight. When he saw me, he looked as if he feared 
a scolding, and began to tell of being blocked in a crowded 
street and unable to get out. When he had finished, I said to 
him : ' It does n't matter at all, you could n't help it, so we will 
try again to-morrow. Here is your fee, I am sorry you had all 
this trouble in earning it.' The look of surprise that came 
over his face was so filled with pleasure that I was repaid on 
the spot for the delay in my departure. Next day he would 
not accept a cent for the service, and he and I are friends for 

" During the first weeks of my experience I was on guard 
only against worry and anger ; but, in the mean time, having 
noticed the absence of the other depressing and dwarfing pas- 
sions, I began to trace a relationship, until I was convinced 
that they are all growths from the two roots I have specified. 
I have felt the freedom now for so long a time that I am sure 
of my relation toward it ; and I could no more harbor any of 
the thieving and depressing influences that once I nursed as a 
heritage of humanity than a fop would voluntarily wallow in a 
filthy gutter. 

" There is no doubt in my mind that pure Christianity and 
pure Buddhism, and the Mental Sciences and all Religions, 
fundamentally teach what has been a discovery to me ; but 
none of them have presented it in the light of a simple and 
easy process of elimination. At one time I wondered if the 
elimination would not yield to indifference and sloth. In my 
experience, the contrary is the result. I feel such an increased 


desire to do something useful that it seems as if I were a boy 
again and the energy for play had returned. I could fight as 
readily as (and better than) ever, if there were occasion for 
it. It does not make one a coward. It can't, since fear is 
one of the things eliminated. I notice the absence of timidity 
in the presence of any audience. When a boy, I was standing 
under a tree which was struck by lightning, and received a 
shock from the effects of which I never knew exemption until 
I had dissolved partnership with worry. Since then, lightning 
and thunder have been encountered under conditions which 
would formerly have caused great depression and discomfort, 
without [my] experiencing a trace of either. Surprise is also 
greatly modified, and one is less liable to become startled by 
unexpected sights or noises. 

" As far as I am individually concerned, I am not bothering 
myself at present as to what the results of this emancipated 
condition may be. I have no doubt that the perfect health 
aimed at by Christian Science may be one of the possibilities, 
for I note a marked improvement in the way my stomach does 
its duty in assimilating the food I give it to handle, and I am 
sure it works better to the sound of a song than under the 
friction of a frown. Neither am I wasting any of this precious 
time formulating an idea of a future existence or a future 
Heaven. The Heaven that I have within myself is as attractive 
as any that has been promised or that I can imagine ; and I 
am willing to let the growth lead where it will, as long as the 
anger and their brood have no part in misguiding it." 1 

The older medicine used to speak of two ways, lysis 
and crisis, one gradual, the other abrupt, in which one 
might recover from a bodily disease. In the spiritual 
realm there are also two ways, one gradual, the other 
sudden, in which inner unification may occur. Tolstoy 
and Bunyan may again serve us as examples, examples, as 
it happens, of the gradual way, though it must be con- 
fessed at the outset that it is hard to follow these wind- 

1 H. Fletcher : Mentieulture, or the A-B-C of True Living, New York 
and Chicago, 1899, pp. 26-36, abridged. 


ings of the hearts of others, and one feels that their 
words do not reveal their total secret. 

Howe'er this be, Tolstoy, pursuing his unending ques- 
tioning, seemed to come to one insight after another. 
First he perceived that his conviction that life was mean- 
ingless took only this finite life into account. He was 
looking for the value of one finite term in that of an- 
other, and the whole result could only be one of those 
indeterminate equations in mathematics which end with 
0=0. Yet this is as far as the reasoning intellect by 
itself can go, unless irrational sentiment or faith brings 
in the infinite. Believe in the infinite as common people 
do, and life grows possible again. 

" Since mankind has existed, wherever life has been, there 
also has been the faith that gave the possibility of living. Faith 
is the sense of life, that sense by virtue of which man does not 
destroy himself, but continues to live on. It is the force whereby 
we live. If Man did not believe that he must live for some- 
thing, he would not live at all. The idea of an infinite God, of 
the divinity of the soul, of the union of men's actions with God 

these are ideas elaborated in the infinite secret depths of 
human thought. They are ideas without which there would be 
no life, without which I myself," said Tolstoy, " would not exist. 
I began to see that I had no right to rely on my individual rea- 
soning and neglect these answers given by faith, for they are 
the only answers to the question." 

Yet how believe as the common people believe, steeped 
as they are in grossest superstition ? It is impossible, 
but yet their life ! their life ! It is normal. It is happy ! 
It is an answer to the question ! 

Little by little, Tolstoy came to the settled conviction 

he says it took him two years to arrive there that 
his trouble had not been with life in general, not with 
the common life of common men, but with the life of the 
upper, intellectual, artistic classes, the life which he had 


personally always led, the cerebral life, the life of con- 
ventionality, artificiality, and personal ambition. He had 
been living wrongly and must change. To work for 
animal needs, to abjure lies and vanities, to relieve com- 
mon wants, to be simple, to believe in God, therein lay 
happiness again. 

" I remember," he says, " one day in early spring, I was alone 
in the forest, lending my ear to its mysterious noises. I listened, 
and my thought went back to what for these three years it 
always was busy with the quest of God. But the idea of 
him, I said, how did I ever come by the idea ? 

" And again there arose in me, with this thought, glad aspi- 
rations towards life. Everything in me awoke and received 
a meaning. . . . Why do I look farther ? a voice within me 
asked. He is there : he, without whom one cannot live. To 
acknowledge God and to live are one and the same thing. God 
is what life is. Well, then ! live, seek God, and there will be 
no life without him. . . . 

" After this, things cleared up within me and about me bet- 
ter than ever, and the light has never wholly died away. I was 
saved from suicide. Just how or when the change took place I 
cannot tell. But as insensibly and gradually as the force of 
life had been annulled within me, and I had reached my moral 
death-bed, just as gradually and imperceptibly did the energy 
of life come back. And what was strange was that this energy 
that came back was nothing new. It was my ancient juvenile 
force of faith, the belief that the sole purpose of my life was to 
be better. I gave up the life of the conventional world, recog- 
nizing it to be no life, but a parody on life, which its superfluities 
simply keep us from comprehending," and Tolstoy thereupon 
embraced the life of the peasants, and has felt right and happy, 
or at least relatively so, ever since. 1 

As I interpret his melancholy, then, it was not merely 
an accidental vitiation of his humors, though it was doubt- 
less also that. It was logically called for by the clash 

1 I have considerably abridged Tolstoy's words in my translation. 


between his inner character and his outer activities and 
aims. Although a literary artist, Tolstoy was one of 
those primitive oaks of men to whom the superfluities 
and insincerities, the cupidities, complications, and cruel- 
ties of our polite civilization are profoundly unsatisfying, 
and for whom the eternal veracities lie with more natural 
and animal things. His crisis was the getting of his 
soul in order, the discovery of its genuine habitat and 
vocation, the escape from falsehoods into what for him 
were ways of truth. It was a case of heterogeneous per- 
sonality tardily and slowly finding its unity and level. 
And though not many of us can imitate Tolstoy, not 
having enough, perhaps, of the aboriginal human marrow 
in our bones, most of us may at least feel as if it might 
be better for us if we could. 

Bunyan's recovery seems to have been even slower. 
For years together he was alternately haunted with texts 
of Scripture, now up and now down, but at last with an 
ever growing relief in his salvation through the blood of 

" My peace would be in and out twenty times a day ; com- 
fort now and trouble presently ; peace now and before I could 
go a furlong as full of guilt and fear as ever heart could hold." 
When a good text comes home to him, " This," he writes, " gave 
me good encouragement for the space of two or three hours " ; 
or " This was a good day to me, I hope I shall not forget it " ; 
or " The glory of these words was then so weighty on me that 
I was ready to swoon as I sat ; yet not with grief and trouble, 
but with solid joy and peace " ; or " This made a strange seizure 
on my spirit ; it brought light with it, and commanded a silence 
in my heart of all those tumultuous thoughts that before did 
use, like masterless hell-hounds, to roar and bellow and make a 
hideous noise within me. It showed me that Jesus Christ had 
not quite forsaken and cast off my Soul." 

Such periods accumulate until he can write : " And now 


remained only the hinder part of the tempest, for the thunder 
was gone beyond me, only some drops would still remain, that 
now and then would fall upon me " ; and at last : " Now did 
my chains fall off my legs indeed ; I was loosed from my afflic- 
tions and irons ; my temptations also fled away ; so that from 
that time, those dreadful Scriptures of God left off to trouble 
me ; now went I also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of 
God. . . . Now could I see myself in Heaven and Earth at 
once ; in Heaven by my Christ, by my Head, by my Righteous- 
ness and Life, though on Earth by my body or person. . . . 
Christ was a precious Christ to my soul that night ; I could 
scarce lie in my bed for joy and peace and triumph through 

Bunyan became a minister of the gospel, and in spite 
of his neurotic constitution, and of the twelve years he 
lay in prison for his non-conformity, his life was turned to 
active use. He was a peacemaker and doer of good, and 
the immortal Allegory which he wrote has brought the 
very spirit of religious patience home to English hearts. 

But neither Bunyan nor Tolstoy could become what 
we have called healthy-minded. They had drunk too 
deeply of the cup of bitterness ever to forget its taste, 
and their redemption is into a universe two stories deep. 
Each of them realized a good which broke the effective 
edge of his sadness ; yet the sadness was preserved as a 
minor ingredient in the heart of the faith by which it 
was overcome. The fact of interest for us is that as a 
matter of fact they could and did find something welling 
up in the inner reaches of their consciousness, by which 
such extreme sadness could be overcome. Tolstoy does 
well to talk of it as that by ichich men live ; for that is ex- 
actly what it is. a stimulus, an excitement, a faith, a force 
that re-infuses the positive willingness to live, even in 
full presence of the evil perceptions that erewhile made 
life seem unbearable. For Tolstoy's perceptions of evil 


appear within their sphere to have remained unmodified. 
His later works show him implacable to the whole sys- 
tem of official values : the ignobility of fashionable life ; 
the infamies of empire ; the spuriousness of the church, 
the vain conceit of the professions ; the meannesses and 
cruelties that go with great success ; and every other 
pompous crime and lying institution of this world. To 
all patience with such things his experience has been for 
him a permanent ministry of death. 

Bunyan also leaves this world to the enemy. 

" I must first pass a sentence of death," he says, "upon 
everything that can properly be called a thing of this life, even 
to reckon myself, ray wife, my children, my health, my enjoy- 
ments, and all, as dead to me, and myself as dead to them ; to 
trust in God through Christ, as touching the world to come ; 
and as touching this world, to count the grave my house, to 
make my bed in darkness, and to say to corruption, Thou art 
my father, and to the worm, Thou art my mother and sister. . . . 
The parting with my wife and my poor children ha,th often 
been to me as the pulling of my flesh from my bones, especially 
my poor blind child who lay nearer my heart than all I had 
besides. Poor child, thought I, what sorrow art thou like to 
have for thy portion in this world ! Thou must be beaten, must 
beg, suffer hunger, cold, nakedness, and a thousand calamities, 
though I cannot now endure that the wind should blow upon 
thee. But yet I must venture you all with God, though it 
goeth to the quick to leave you." 1 

The ' hue of resolution ' is there, but the full flood of 
ecstatic liberation seems never to have poured over poor 
John Bunyan's soul. 

These examples may suffice to acquaint us in a general 
way with the phenomenon technically called ' Conver- 
sion.' In the next lecture I shall invite you to study its 
peculiarities and concomitants in some detail. 

1 In my quotations from Bunyan I have omitted certain intervening por- 
tions of the text. 

Cowv - (cWo^ 



TO be converted, to be regenerated, to receive grace, 
to experience religion, to gain an assurance, are so 
many phrases which denote the process, gradual or sud- 
den, by which a self hitherto divided, and consciously 
wrong inferior and unhappy, becomes unified and con- 
sciously right superior and happy, in consequence of its 
firmer hold upon religious realities. This at least is what 
conversion signifies in general terms, whether or not we 
believe that a direct divine operation is needed to bring 
such a moral change about. 

Before entering upon a minuter study of the process, 
let me enliven our understanding of the definition by a 
concrete example. I choose the quaint case of an unlet- 
tered man, Stephen H. Bradley, whose experience is 
related in a scarce American pamphlet. 1 

I select this case because it shows how in these inner 
alterations one may find one unsuspected depth below 
another, as if the possibilities of character lay disposed 
in a series of layers or shells, of whose existence we have 
no premonitory knowledge. 

Bradley thought that he had been already fully con- 
verted at the age of fourteen. 

" I thought I saw the Saviour, by faith, in human shape, for 
about one second in the room, with arms extended, appearing 

1 A sketch of the life of Stephen H. Bradley, from the age of five to 
twenty-four years, including his remarkable experience of the power of the 
Holy Spirit on the second evening of November, 1829. Madison, Con- 
necticut, 1830. 


to say to me, Come. The next day I rejoiced with trembling ; 
soon after, my happiness was so great that I said that I wanted 
to die ; this world had no place in my affections, as I knew of, 
and every day appeared as solemn to me as the Sabbath. I had 
an ardent desire that all mankind might feel as I did ; I wanted 
to have them all love God supremely. Previous to this time 
I was very selfish and self-righteous ; but now I desired the 
welfare of all mankind, and could with a feeling heart forgive 
my worst enemies, and I felt as if I should be willing to bear 
the scoffs and sneers of any person, and suffer anything for 
His sake, if I could be the means in the hands of God, of the 
conversion of one soul." 

Nine years later, in 1829, Mr. Bradley heard of a revival of 
religion that had begun in his neighborhood. " Many of the 
young converts," he says, " would come to me when in meeting 
and ask me if I had religion, and my reply generally was, I 
hope I have. This did not appear to satisfy them ; they said 
they knew they had it. I requested them to pray for me, 
thinking with myself, that if I had not got religion now, after 
so long a time professing to be a Christian, that it was time I 
had, and hoped their prayers would be answered in my behalf. 

" One Sabbath, I went to hear the Methodist at the Acad- 
emy. He spoke of the ushering in of the day of general 
judgment ; and he set it forth in such a solemn and terrible 
manner as I never heard before. The scene of that day ap- 
peared to be taking place, and so awakened were all the powers 
of my mind that, like Felix, I trembled involuntarily on the 
bench where I was sitting, though I felt nothing at heart. The 
next day evening I went to hear him again. He took his text 
from Revelation : ' And I saw the dead, small and great, stand 
before God.' And he represented the terrors of that day in 
such a manner that it appeared as if it would melt the heart 
of stone. When he finished his discourse, an old gentleman 
turned to me and said, ' This is what I call preaching.' I 
thought the same ; but my feelings were still unmoved by what 
he said, and I did not enjoy religion, but I believe he did. 

" I will now relate my experience of the power of the Holy 
Spirit which took place on the same night. Had any person 


told me previous to this that I could have experienced the 
power of the Holy Spirit in the manner which I did, I coidd 
not have believed it, and should have thought the person de- 
luded that told me so. I went directly home after the meet- 
ing-, and when I got home I wondered what made me feel so 
stupid. I retired to rest soon after I got home, and felt indif- 
ferent to the things of religion until I began to be exercised by 
the Holy Spirit, which began in about five minutes after, in the 
following manner : 

" At first, I began to feel my heart beat very quick all on a 
sudden, which made me at first think that perhaps something 
is going to ail me, though I was not alarmed, for I felt no pain. 
My heart increased in its beating, which soon convinced me 
that it was the Holy Spirit from the effect it had on me. I 
began to feel exceedingly happy and humble, and such a sense 
of unworthiness as I never felt before. I could not very well 
help speaking out, which I did, and said, Lord, I do not deserve 
this happiness, or words to that effect, while there was a stream 
(resembling air in feeling) came into my mouth and heart in a 
more sensible manner than that of drinking anything, which 
continued, as near as I could judge, five minutes or more, which 
appeared to be the cause of such a palpitation of my heart. It 
took complete possession of my soul, and I am certain that I 
desired the Lord, while in the midst of it, not to give me any 
more happiness, for it seemed as if I could not contain what I 
had got. My heart seemed as if it would burst, but it did not 
stop until I felt as if I was unutterably full of the love and 
grace of God. In the mean time while thus exercised, a thought 
arose in my mind, what can it mean ? and all at once, as if to 
answer it, my memory became exceedingly clear, and it ap- 
peared to me just as if the New Testament was placed open 
before me, eighth chapter of Romans, and as light as if some 
candle lighted was held for me to read the 26th and 27th verses 
of that chapter, and I read these words : ' The Spirit helpeth 
our infirmities with groanings which cannot be uttered.' And 
all the time that my heart was a-beating, it made me groan 
like a person in distress, which was not very easy to stop, 
though I was in no pain at all, and my brother being in bed in 


another room came and opened the door, and asked me if I 
had got the toothache. I told him no, and that he might get 
to sleep. I tried to stop. I felt unwilling to go to sleep my- 
self, I was so happy, fearing I should lose it thinking within 

' My willing soul would stay 
In such a frame as this.' 

And while I lay reflecting, after my heart stopped beating, 
feeling as if my soul was full of the Holy Spirit, I thought that 
perhaps there might be angels hovering round my bed. I felt 
just as if I wanted to converse with them, and finally I spoke, 
saying, ' O ye affectionate angels ! how is it that ye can take 
so much interest in our welfare, and we take so little interest 
in our own.' After this, with difficulty I got to sleep ; and 
when I awoke in the morning my first thoughts were : What 
has become of my happiness ? and, feeling a degree of it in my 
heart, I asked for more, which was given to me as quick as 
thought. I then got up to dress myself, and found to my sur- 
prise that I could but just stand. It appeared to me as if it 
was a little heaven upon earth. My soul felt as completely 
raised above the fears of death as of going to sleep ; and like a 
bird in a cage, I had a desire, if it was the will of God, to get 
released from my body and to dwell with Christ, though willing 
to live to do good to others, and to warn sinners to repent. I 
went downstairs feeling as solemn as if I had lost all my 
friends, and thinking with myself, that I would not let my 
parents know it until I had first looked into the Testament. I 
went directly to the shelf and looked into it, at the eighth chap- 
ter of Romans, and every verse seemed to almost speak and to 
confirm it to be truly the Word of God, and as if my feelings 
corresponded with the meaning of the word. I then told my 
parents of it, and told them that I thought that they must see 
that when I spoke, that it was not my own voice, for it appeared 
so to me. My speech seemed entirely under the control of the 
Spirit within me ; I do not mean that the words which I spoke 
were not my own, for they were. I thought that I was influ- 
enced similar to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost (with 
the exception of having power to give it to others, and doing 


what they did). After breakfast I went round to converse 
with my neighbors on religion, which I could not have been 
hired to have done before this, and at their request I prayed 
with them, though I had never prayed in public before. 

" I now feel as if I had discharged my duty by telling the 
truth, and hope by the blessing of God, it may do some good to 
all who shall read it. He has fulfilled his promise in sending 
the Holy Spirit down into our hearts, or mine at least, and I 
now defy all the Deists and Atheists in the world to shake my 
faith in Christ." 

So much for Mr. Bradley and his conversion, of the 
effect of which upon his later life we gain no informa- 
tion. Now for a minuter survey of the constituent ele- 
ments of the conversion process. 

If you open the chapter on Association, of any treatise 
on Psychology, you will read that a man's ideas, aims, 
and objects form diverse internal groups and systems, 
relatively independent of one another. Each i aim ' which 
he follows awakens a certain specific kind of interested 
excitement, and gathers a certain group of ideas together 
in subordination to it as its associates ; and if the aims 
and excitements are distinct in kind, their groups of ideas 
may have little in common. When one group is present 
and engrosses the interest, all the ideas connected with 
other groups may be excluded from the mental field. 
The President of the United States when, with paddle, 
gun, and fishing-rod, he goes camping in the wilderness 
for a vacation, changes his system of ideas from top to 
bottom. The presidential anxieties have lapsed into the 
background entirely ; the official habits are replaced by 
the habits of a son of nature, and those who knew the 
man only as the strenuous magistrate would not i know 
him for the same person ' if they saw him as the camper. 

If now he should never go back, and never again 


Was- cW*;^ *> 


suffer political interests to gain dominion over him, he 
would be for practical intents and purposes a perma- 
nently transformed being'. Our ordinary alterations of 
character, as we pass from one of our aims to another, 
are not commonly called transformations, because each 
of them is so rapidly succeeded by another in the re- 
verse direction ; but whenever one aim grows so stable 
as to expel definitively its previous rivals from the indi- 
vidual's life, we tend to speak of the phenomenon, and 
perhaps to wonder at it, as a i transformation.' 

These alternations are the completest of the ways in 
which a self may be divided. A less complete way is the 
simultaneous coexistence of two or more different groups 
of aims, of which one practically holds the right of way 
and instigates activity, whilst the others are only pious 
wishes, and never practically come to anything. Saint 
Augustine's aspirations to a purer life, in our last lecture, 
were for a while an example. Another would be the 
President in his full pride of office, wondering whether it 
were not all vanity, and whether the life of a wood-chop- 
per were not the wholesomer destiny. Such fleeting aspira- 
tions are mere velleitates, whimsies. They exist on the 
remoter outskirts of the mind, and the real self of the 
man, the centre of his energies, is occupied with an 
entirely different system. As life goes on, there is a 
constant change of our interests, and a consequent 
change of place in our systems of ideas, from more cen- 
tral to more peripheral, and from more peripheral to more 
central parts of consciousness. I remember, for instance, 
that one evening when I was a youth, my father read 
aloud from a Boston newspaper that part of Lord Gif- 
ford's will which founded these four lectureships. At 
that time I did not think of being a teacher of philosophy : 
and what I listened to was as remote from my own life 


as if it related to the planet Mars. Yet here I am, with 
the Gifford system part and parcel of my very self, and 
all my energies, for the time being, devoted to success- 
fully identifying myself with it. My soul stands now 
planted in what once was for it a practically unreal ob- 
ject, and speaks from it as from its proper habitat and 

When I say ' Soul,' you need not take me in the 
ontological sense unless you prefer to; for although 
ontological language is instinctive in such matters, yet 
Buddhists or Humians can perfectly well describe the 
facts in the phenomenal terms which are their favorites. 
For them the soul is only a succession of fields of con- 
sciousness : yet there is found in each field a part, or 
sub-field, which figures as focal and contains the excite- 
ment, and from which, as from a centre, the aim seems 
to be taken. Talking of this part, we involuntarily 
apply words of perspective to distinguish it from the rest, 
words like ' here,' 'this,' 'now,' 'mine,' or 'me'; and we 
ascribe to the other parts the positions 'there,' 'then,' 
' that,' ' his ' or ' thine,' ' it,' ' not me.' But a ' here ' can 
change to a ' there,' and a ' there ' become a ' here,' and 
what was ' mine ' and what was ' not mine ' change their 

What brings such changes about is the way in which 
emotional excitement alters. Things hot and vital to us 
to-day are cold to-morrow. It is as if seen from the hot 
parts of the field that the other parts appear to us, and 
from these hot parts personal desire and volition make 
their sallies. They are in short the centres of our dy- 
namic energy, whereas the cold parts leave us indiffer- 
ent and passive in proportion to their coldness. 

Whether such language be rigorously exact is for the 
present of no importance. It is exact enough, if you 


recognize from your own experience the facts which I 
seek to designate by it. 

Now there may be great oscillation in the emotional 
interest, and the hot places may shift before one almost 
as rapidly as the sparks that run through burnt-up paper. 
Then we have the wavering and divided self we heard so 
much of in the previous lecture. Or the focus of excite- 
ment and heat, the point of view from which the aim is 
taken, may come to lie permanently within a certain sys- 
tem ; and then, if the change be a religious one, we call 
it a conversion, especially if it be by crisis, or sudden. 

Let us hereafter, in speaking of the hot place in a 
man's consciousness, the group of ideas to which he 
devotes himself, and from which he works, call it the 
habitual centre of his personal energy. It makes a great 
difference to a man whether one set of his ideas, or an- 
other, be the centre of his energy ; and it makes a great 
difference, as regards any set of ideas which he may pos- 
sess, whether they become central or remain peripheral in 
him. To say that a man is i converted ' means, in these 
terms, that religious ideas, previously peripheral in his con- 
sciousness, now take a central place, and that religious 
aims form the habitual centre of his energy. 

Now if you ask of psychology just how the excitement 
shifts in a man's mental system, and lohy aims that were 
peripheral become at a certain moment central, psychology 
has to reply that although she can give a general de- 
scription of what happens, she is unable in a given case 
to account accurately for all the single forces at work. 
Neither an outside observer nor the Subject who under- 
goes the process can explain fully how particular expe- 
riences are able to change one's centre of energy so 
decisively, or why they so often have to bide their hour 
to do so. We have a thought, or we perform an act, 


repeatedly, but on a certain clay the real meaning- of the 
thought peals through us for the first time, or the act 
has suddenly turned into a moral impossibility. All we 
know is that there are dead feelings, dead ideas, and cold 
beliefs, and there are hot and live ones ; and when one 
grows hot and alive within us, everything has to re-cry stal- 
lize about it. We may say that the heat and liveliness 
mean only the ' motor efficacy,' long deferred but now 
operative, of the idea; but such talk itself is only cir- 
cumlocution, for whence the sudden motor efficacy ? 
And our explanations then get so vague and general 
that one realizes all the more the intense individuality 
of the whole phenomenon. 

In the end we fall back on the hackneyed symbolism of 
a mechanical equilibrium. A mind is a system of ideas, 
each with the excitement it arouses, and with tendencies 
impulsive and inhibitive, which mutually check or rein- 
force one another. The collection of ideas alters by sub- 
traction or by addition in the course of experience, and 
the tendencies alter as the organism gets more aged. A 
mental system may be undermined or weakened by this 
interstitial alteration just as a building is, and yet for a 
time keep upright by dead habit. But a new perception, a 
sudden emotional shock, or an occasion which lays bare 
the organic alteration, will make the whole fabric fall 
together ; and then the centre of gravity sinks into an 
attitude more stable, for the new ideas that reach the 
centre in the rearrangement seem now to be locked there, 
and the new structure remains permanent. 

Formed associations of ideas and habits are usually 
factors of retardation in such changes of equilibrium. 
New information, however acquired, plays an accelerating 
part in the changes ; and the slow mutation of our in- 
stincts and propensities, under the i unimaginable touch 


of time ' has an enormous influence. Moreover, all these 
influences may work subconsciously or half unconsciously. 1 
And when you get a Subject in whom the subconscious 
life of which I must speak more fully soon is largely 
developed, and in whom motives habitually ripen in si- 
lence, you get a case of which you can never give a full 
account, and in which, both to the Subject and the 
onlookers, there may appear an element of marvel. Emo- 
tional occasions, especially violent ones, are extremely 
potent in precipitating mental rearrangements. The 
sudden and explosive ways in which love, jealousy, guilt, 
fear, remorse, or anger can seize upon one are known to 
everybody. 2 Hope, happiness, security, resolve, emotions 
characteristic of conversion, can be equally explosive. 
And emotions that come in this explosive way seldom 
leave things as they found them. 

In his recent work on the Psychology of Religion, 
Professor Starbuck of California has shown bv a statis- 

1 Jouffroy is an example : " Down this slope it was that my intelligence 
had glided, and little by little it had got far from its first faith. But this 
melancholy revolution had not taken place in the broad daylight of my con- 
sciousness ; too many scruples, too many guides and sacred affections had 
made it dreadful to me, so that I was far from avowing to myself the pro- 
gress it had made. It had gone on in silence, by an involuntary elabora- 
tion of which I was not the accomplice ; and although I had in reality long 
ceased to be a Christian, yet, in the innocence of my intention, I should have 
shuddered to suspect it, and thought it calumny had I been accused of such 
a falling away." Then follows Jouffroy's account of his counter-conversion, 
quoted above on p. 176. 

2 One hardly needs examples ; but for love, see p. 179, note ; for fear, 
p. 162 ; for remorse, see Othello after the murder ; for anger, see Lear after 
Cordelia's first speech to him ; for resolve, see p. 178 (J. Foster case). Here 
is a pathological case in which guilt was the feeling that suddenly exploded: 
" One night I was seized on entering bed with a rigor, such as Swedenborg 
describes as coming over him with a sense of holiness, but over me with a 
sense of guilt. During that whole night I lay under the influence of the rigor, 
and from its inception I felt that I was under the curse of God. I have 
never done one act of duty in my life sins against God and man, begin- 
ning as far as my memory goes back a wildcat in human shape." 

*<A.Jlc^Yx <*>> - . , < 


tical inquiry how closely parallel in its manifestations 
the ordinary ' conversion ' which occurs in young people 
brought up in evangelical circles is to that growth into a 
larger spiritual life which is a normal phase of adolescence 
in every class of human beings. The age is the same, 
falling usually between fourteen and seventeen. The 
symptoms are the same, sense of incompleteness and 
imperfection; brooding, depression, morbid introspection, 
and sense of sin ; anxiety about the hereafter ; distress 
over doubts, and the like. And the result is the same, 
a happy relief and objectivity, as the confidence in self 
gets greater through the adjustment of the faculties to 
the wider outlook. In spontaneous religious awakening, 
apart from revivalistic examples, and in the ordinary storm 
and stress and moulting-time of adolescence, we also may 
meet with mystical experiences, astonishing the subjects 
by their suddenness, just as in revivalistic conversion. 
The analogy, in fact, is complete ; and Starbuck's con- 
clusion as to these ordinary youthful conversions would 
seem to be the only sound one : Conversion is in its 
essence a normal adolescent phenomenon, incidental to 
the passage from the child's small universe to the wider 
intellectual and spiritual life of maturity. 

" Theology," says Dr. Starbuck, " takes the adolescent 
tendencies and builds upon them ; it sees that the essen- 
tial thing in adolescent growth is bringing the person out 
of childhood into the new life of maturity and personal 
insight. It accordingly brings those means to bear which 
will intensify the normal tendencies. It shortens up the 
period of duration of storm and stress." The conversion 
phenomena of l conviction of sin ' last, by this investiga- 
tor's statistics, about one fifth as long as the periods 
of adolescent storm and stress phenomena of which he 
also got statistics, but they are very much more intense. 


Bodily accompaniments, loss of sleep and appetite, for 
example, are much more frequent in them. " The essen- 
tial distinction appears to be that conversion intensifies 
but shortens the period by bringing the person to a 
definite crisis." 1 

The conversions which Dr. Starbuck here has in mind 
are of course mainly those of very commonplace persons, 
kept true to a pre-appointed type by instruction, appeal, 
and example. The particular form which they affect is 
the result of suggestion and imitation. 2 If they went 
through their growth-crisis in other faiths and other 
countries, although the essence of the change would be 
the same (since it is one in the main so inevitable), its 
accidents would be different. In Catholic lands, for ex- 
ample, and in our own Episcopalian sects, no such anxiety 
and conviction of sin is usual as in sects that encourage 
revivals. The sacraments being more relied on in these 
more strictly ecclesiastical bodies, the individual's per- 
sonal acceptance of salvation needs less to be accentuated 
and led up to. 

1 E. D. Starbuck : The Psychology of Religion, pp. 224, 262. 

2 No one understands this better than Jonathan Edwards understood it 
already. Conversion narratives of the more commonplace sort must always 
be taken with the allowances which he suggests : " A rule received and es- 
tablished by common consent has a very great, though to many persons an 
insensible influence in forming their notions of the process of their own 
experience. I know very well how they proceed as to this matter, for I 
have had frequent opportunities of observing their conduct. Very often 
their experience at first appears like a confused chaos, but then those parts 
are selected which bear the nearest resemblance to such particular steps as 
are insisted on ; and these are dwelt upon in their thoughts, and spoken of 
from time to time, till they grow more and more conspicuous in their view, 
and other parts which are neglected grow more and more obscure. Thus 
what they have experienced is insensibly strained, so as to bring it to an 
exact conformity to the scheme already established in their minds. And it 
becomes natural also for ministers, who have to deal with those who insist 
upon distinctness and clearness of method, to do so too." Treatise on 
Religious Affections. 


But every imitative phenomenon must once have had 
its original, and I propose that for the future we keep as 
close as may be to the more first-hand and original forms 
of experience. These are more likely to be found in 
sporadic adult cases. 

Professor Leuba, in a valuable article on the psycho- 
logy of conversion, 1 subordinates the theological aspect 
of the religious life almost entirely to its moral aspect. 
The religious sense he defines as " the feeling of un- 
wholeness, of moral imperfection, of sin, to use the tech- 
nical word, accompanied by the yearning after the peace 
of unity." "The word 'religion,' : ' he says, "is getting 
more and more to signify the conglomerate of desires and 
emotions springing from the sense of sin and its release " ; 
and he gives a large number of examples, in which the 
sin ranges from drunkenness to spiritual pride, to show 
that the sense of it may beset one and crave relief as 
urgently as does the anguish of the sickened flesh or any 
form of physical misery. 

Undoubtedly this conception covers an immense num- 
ber of cases. A good one to use as an example is that 
of Mr. S. H. Hadley, who after his conversion became 
an active and useful rescuer of drunkards in New York. 
His experience runs as follows : 

" One Tuesday evening I sat in a saloon in Harlem, a home- 
less, friendless, dying drunkard. I had pawned or sold every- 
thing that would bring a drink. I could not sleep unless I was 
dead drunk. I had not eaten for days, and for four nights pre- 
ceding I had suffered with delirium tremens, or the horrors, 
from midnight till morning. I had often said, ' I will never be 
a tramp. I will never be cornered, for when that time comes, 
if ever it comes, I will find a home in the bottom of the river.' 
But the Lord so ordered it that when that time did come I was 

1 Studies in the Psychology of Religious Phenomena, American Journal 
of Psychology, vii. 309 (1896). 


not able to walk one quarter of the way to the river. As I sat 
there thinking, I seemed to feel some great and mighty pre- 
sence. I did not know then what it was. I did learn after- 
wards that it was Jesus, the sinner's friend. I walked up to 
the bar and pounded it with my fist till I made the glasses 
rattle. Those who stood by drinking looked on with scornful 
curiosity. I said I would never take another drink, if I died 
on the street, and really I felt as though that would happen 
before morning. Something said, ' If you want to keep this 
promise, go and have yourself locked up.' I went to the near- 
est station-house and had myself locked up. 

" I was placed in a narrow cell, and it seemed as though all 
the demons that could find room came in that place with me. 
This was not all the company I had, either. No, praise the 
Lord ; that dear Spirit that came to me in the saloon was 
present, and said, Pray. I did pray, and though I did not feel 
any great help, I kept on praying. As soon as I was able to 
leave my cell I was taken to the police court and remanded 
back to the cell. I was finally released, and found my way to 
my brother's house, where every care was given me. While 
lying in bed the admonishing Spirit never left me, and when I 
arose the following Sabbath morning I felt that day would 
decide my fate, and toward evening it came into my head to go 
to Jerry M'Auley's Mission. I went. The house was packed, 
and with great difficulty I made my way to the space near the 
platform. There I saw the apostle to the drunkard and the 
outcast that man of God, Jerry M'Auley. He rose, and 
amid deep silence told his experience. There was a sincerity 
about this man that carried conviction with it, and I found my- 
self saying, ' I wonder if God can save me f ' I listened to the 
testimony of twenty-five or thirty persons, every one of whom 
had been saved from rum, and I made up my mind that I would 
be saved or die right there. When the invitation was given, I 
knelt down with a crowd of drunkards. Jerry made the first 
prayer. Then Mrs. M'Auley prayed fervently for us. Oh, 
what a conflict was going on for my poor soul ! A blessed 
whisper said, ' Come ' ; the devil said, ' Be careful.' I halted 
but a moment, and then, with a breaking heart, I said, ' Dear 


Jesus, can you help me ? ' Never with mortal tongue can I 
describe that moment. Although up to that moment my soul 
had been filled with indescribable gloom, I felt the glorious 
brightness of the noonday sun shine into my heart. I felt I was 
a free man. Oh, the precious feeling of safety, of freedom, of 
resting on Jesus ! I felt that Christ with all his brightness and 
power had come into my life ; that, indeed, old things had 
passed away and all things had become new. 

" From that moment till now I have never wanted a drink of 
whiskey, and I have never seen money enough to make me take 
one. I promised God that night that if he would take away 
the appetite for strong drink, I would work for him all my life. 
He has done his part, and I have been trying to do mine." * 

Dr. Leuba rightly remarks that there is little doctrinal 
theology in such an experience, which starts with the 
absolute need of a higher helper, and ends with the sense 
that he has helped us. He gives other cases of drunk- 
ards' conversions which are purely ethical, containing, 
as recorded, no theological beliefs whatever. John B. 
Gough's case, for instance, is practically, says Dr. Leuba, 
the conversion of an atheist neither God nor Jesus 
being mentioned. 2 But in spite of the importance of 
this type of regeneration, with little or no intellectual 
readjustment, this writer surely makes it too exclusive. 
It corresponds to the subjectively centred form of morbid 
melancholy, of which Bunyan and Alline were examples. 
But we saw in our seventh lecture that there are objective 
forms of melancholy also, in which the lack of rational 

1 I have abridged Mr. Hadley's account. For other conversions of drunk- 
ards, see his pamphlet, Rescue Mission Work, published at the Old Jerry 
M'Auley Water Street Mission, New York city. A striking collection of 
cases also appears in the appendix to Professor Leuba's article. 

2 A restaurant waiter served provisionally as Gough's ' Saviour.' General 
Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, considers that the first vital 
step in saving outcasts consists in making them feel that some decent human 
being cares enough for them to take an interest in the question whether 
they are to rise or sink. 


meaning of the universe, and of life anyhow, is the burden 
that weighs upon one you remember Tolstoy's case. 1 
So there are distinct elements in conversion, and their 
relations to individual lives deserve to be discriminated. 2 

Some persons, for instance, never are, and possibly 
never under any circumstances could be, converted. 
Religious ideas cannot become the centre of their spirit- 
ual energy. They may be excellent persons, servants of 
God in practical ways, but they are not children of his 
kingdom. They are either incapable of imagining the 
invisible ; or else, in the language of devotion, they are 
life-long subjects of ' barrenness ' and i dryness.' Such 
inaptitude for religious faith may in some cases be intel- 
lectual in its origin. Their religious faculties may be 
checked in their natural tendency to expand, by beliefs 
about the world that are inhibitive, the pessimistic and 
materialistic beliefs, for example, within which so many 
good souls, who in former times would have freely 
indulged their religious propensities, find themselves 
nowadays, as it were, frozen ; or the agnostic vetoes 
upon faith as something weak and shameful, under which 
so many of us to-day lie cowering, afraid to use our 
instincts. In many persons such inhibitions are never 
overcome. To the end of their days they refuse to 
believe, their personal energy never gets to its religious 
centre, and the latter remains inactive in perpetuity. 

In other persons the trouble is profounder. There are 
men anaesthetic on the religious side, deficient in that 

1 The crisis of apathetic melancholy no use in life into which J. S. 
Mill records that he fell, and from which he emerged by the reading of 
Marmontel's Memoirs (Heaven save the mark !) and Wordsworth's poetry, 
is another intellectual and general metaphysical case. See Mill's Autobio- 
graphy, New York, 1873, pp. 141, 148. 

2 Starbuck, in addition to ' escape from sin,' discriminates ' spiritual 
illumination ' as a distinct type of conversion experience. Psychology of 
Religion, p. 85. 


category of sensibility. Just as a bloodless organism can 
never, in spite of all its goodwill, attain to the reckless 
' animal spirits ' enjoyed by those of sanguine tempera- 
ment ; so the nature which is spiritually barren may 
admire and envy faith in others, but can never compass 
the enthusiasm and peace which those who are tempera- 
mentally qualified for faith enjoy. All this may, however, 
turn out eventually to have been a matter of temporary 
inhibition. Even late in life some thaw, some release may 
take place, some bolt be shot back in the barrenest 
breast, and the man's hard heart may soften and break 
into religious feeling. Such cases more than any others 
suggest the idea that sudden conversion is by miracle. 
So long as they exist, we must not imagine ourselves to 
deal with irretrievably fixed classes. 

Now there are two forms of mental occurrence in 
human beings, which lead to a striking difference in the 
conversion process, a difference to which Professor Star- 
buck has called attention. You know how it is when 
you try to recollect a forgotten name. Usually you help 
the recall by working for it, by mentally running over 
the places, persons, and things with which the word was 
connected. But sometimes this effort fails : you feel then 
as if the harder you tried the less hope there would be, 
as though the name were jammed, and pressure in its 
direction only kept it all the more from rising. And 
then the opposite expedient often succeeds. Give up the 
effort entirely; think of something altogether different, 
and in half an hour the lost name comes sauntering into 
your mind, as Emerson says, as carelessly as if it had 
never been invited. Some hidden process was started in 
you by the effort, which went on after the effort ceased, 
and made the result come as if it came spontaneously. 


A certain music teacher, says Dr. Starbuck, says to her 
pupils after the thing- to be done has been clearly pointed 
out, and unsuccessfully attempted : " Stop trying and it 
will do itself ! " ' 

There is thus a conscious and voluntary way and an 
involuntary and unconscious way in which mental results 
may get accomplished ; and we find both ways exempli- 
fied in the history of conversion, giving us two types, 
which Starbuck calls the volitional type and the type by 
self-surrender respectively. 

In the volitional type the regenerative change is usu- 
ally gradual, and consists in the building up, piece by 
piece, of a new set of moral and spiritual habits. But 
there are always critical points here at which the move- 
ment forward seems much more rapid. This psychologi- 
cal fact is abundantly illustrated by Dr. Starbuck. Our 
education in any practical accomplishment proceeds ap- 
parently by jerks and starts, just as the growth of our 
physical bodies does. 

" An athlete . . . sometimes awakens suddenly to an under- 
standing of the fine points of the game and to a real enjoyment 
of it, just as the convert awakens to an appreciation of religion. 
If he keeps on engaging in the sport, there may come a day 
when all at once the game plays itself through him when he 
loses himself in some great contest. In the same way, a musi- 
cian may suddenly reach a point at which pleasure in the tech- 
nique of the art entirely falls away, and in some moment of 
inspiration he becomes the instrument through which music 
flows. The writer has chanced to hear two different married 
persons, both of whose wedded lives had been beautiful from 
the beginning, relate that not until a year or more after mar- 
riage did they awake to the full blessedness of married life. 
So it is with the religious experience of these persons we are 
studying." 2 

' Psychology of Religion, p. 117. 

2 Psychology of Religion, p. 385. Compare, also, pp. 137-144 and 262. 

Ov>Ja cow* t^^^^* ' vv^Y^rxw^ ' 


We shall erelong hear still more remarkable illustra- 
tions of subconsciously maturing processes eventuating in 
results of which we suddenly grow conscious. Sir Wil- 
liam Hamilton and Professor Laycock of Edinburgh were 
among the first to call attention to this class of effects ; 
but Dr. Carpenter first, unless I am mistaken, introduced 
the term ' unconscious cerebration,' which has since then 
been a popular phrase of explanation. The facts are now 
known to us far more extensively than he could know 
them, and the adjective ' unconscious,' being for many 
of them almost certainly a misnomer, is better replaced 
by the vaguer term ' subconscious ' or ' subliminal* 

Of the volitional type of conversion it would be easy 
to give examples, 1 but they are as a rule less interesting 

1 For instance, C. G. Finney italicizes the volitional element : "Just at 
this point the whole question of Gospel salvation opened to my mind in a 
manner most marvelous to me at the time. I think I then saw, as clearly 
as I ever have in my life, the reality and fullness of the atonement of Christ. 
Gospel salvation seemed to me to be an offer of something to be accepted, 
and all that was necessary on my part was to get my own consent to give up 
my sins and accept Christ. After this distinct revelation had stood for some 
little time before my mind, the question seemed to be put, ' Will you accept 
it now, to-day ? ' I replied, ' Yes ; i" will accept it to-day, or I will die in the 
attempt ! ' He then went into the woods, where he describes his struggles. 
He could not pray, his heart was hardened in its pride. " I then reproached 
myself for having promised to give my heart to God before I left the 
woods. When I came to try, I found I could not. . . . My inward soul 
hung back, and there was no going out of my heart to God. The thought 
was pressing me, of the rashness of my promise that I would give my heart 
to God that day, or die in the attempt. It seemed to me as if that was 
binding on my soul ; and yet I was going to break my vow. A great sinking 
and discouragement came over me, and I felt almost too weak to stand upon 
my knees. Just at this moment I again thought I heard some one ap- 
proach me, and I opened my eyes to see whether it were so. But right there 
the revelation of my pride of heart, as the great difficulty that stood in the 
way, was distinctly shown to me. An overwhelming sense of my wicked- 
ness in being ashamed to have a human being see me on my knees before 
God took such powerful possession of me, that I cried at the top of my voice, 
and exclaimed that I would not leave that place if all the men on earth and all 
the devils in hell surrounded me. ' What ! ' I said, ' such a degraded sinner 



than those of the self-surrender type, in which the sub- 
conscious effects are more abundant and often startling. 
I will therefore hurry to the latter, the more so because 
the difference between the two types is after all not radi- 
cal. Even in the most voluntarily built-up sort of regen- 
eration there are passages of partial self-surrender inter- 
posed ; and in the great majority of all cases, when the 
will has done its uttermost towards bringing one close to 
the complete unification aspired after, it seems that the 
very last step must be left to other forces and performed 
without the help of its activity. In other words, self- 
surrender becomes then indispensable. " The personal 
will," says Dr. Starbuck, "must be given up. In many 
cases relief persistently refuses to come until the person 
ceases to resist, or to make an effort in the direction he 
desires to go." 

" I had said I would not give up ; but when my will was 
broken, it was all over," writes one of Starbuck's correspond- 
ents. Another says : " I simply said : ' Lord, I have done all 
I can ; I leave the whole matter with Thee ; ' and immediately 
there came to me a great peace." Another : " All at once it 
occurred to me that I might be saved, too, if I would stop try- 
ing to do it all myself, and follow Jesus : somehow I lost my 
load." Another : " I finally ceased to resist, and gave myself 
up, though it was a hard struggle. Gradually the feeling came 
over me that I had clone my part, and God was willing to do 
his." 1 " Lord, Thy will be done ; damn or save ! " cries John 
Nelson, 2 exhausted with the anxious struggle to escape damna- 
tion ; and at that moment his soul was filled with peace. 

as I am, on my knees confessing my sins to the great and holy God; and 
ashamed to have any human being, and a sinner like myself, find me on my 
knees endeavoring to make my peace with my offended God ! ' The sin 
appeared awful, infinite. It broke me down before the Lord." Memoirs, 
pp. 14-16, abridged. 

1 Starbuck : Op. cit., pp. 91, 114. 

2 Extracts from the Journal of Mr. John Nelson, London, no date, p. 24. 


Dr. Starbuck gives an interesting, and it seems to me 
a true, account so far as conceptions so schematic can 
claim truth at all of the reasons why self-surrender at 
the last moment should be so indispensable. To begin 
with, there are two things in the mind of the candidate 
for conversion : first, the present incompleteness or wrong- 
ness, the ' sin ' which he is eager to escape from ; and, 
second, the positive ideal which he longs to compass. 
Now with most of us the sense of our present wrong- 
ness is a far more distinct piece of our consciousness than 
is the imagination of any positive ideal we can aim at. 
In a majority of cases, indeed, the ' sin ' almost ex- 
clusively engrosses the attention, so that conversion is 
" a process of struggling away from sin rather than 
of striving towards righteousness." 1 A man's conscious 
wit and will, so far as they strain towards the ideal, are 
aiming at something only dimly and inaccurately ima- 
gined. Yet all the while the forces of mere organic ripen- 
ing within him are going on towards their own prefigured 
result, and his conscious strainings are letting loose sub- 
conscious allies behind the scenes, which in their way 
work towards rearrangement; and the rearrangement to- 
wards which all these deeper forces tend is pretty surely 
definite, and definitely different from what he consciously 
conceives and determines. It may consequently be ac- 
tually interfered with (jammed, as it were, like the lost 
word when we seek too energetically to recall it), by his 
voluntary efforts slanting from the true direction. 

Starbuck seems to put his finger on the root of the 
matter when he says that to exercise the personal will is 
still to live in the region where the imperfect self is 
the thing most emphasized. Where, on the contrary, 
the subconscious forces take the lead, it is more probably 

1 Starbuck, p. 64. 

^l Y vu S t w ^tc^*^ J 


the better self in posse which directs the operation. In- 
stead of being clumsily and vaguely aimed at from with- 
out, it is then itself the organizing centre. What then 
must the person do ? " He must relax," says Dr. Star- 
buck, " that is, he must fall back on the larger Power 
that makes for righteousness, which has been welling up 
in his own being, and let it finish in its own way the 
work it has begun. . . . The act of yielding, in this 
point of view, is giving one's self over to the new life, 
making it the centre of a new personality, and living, 
from within, the truth of it which had before been viewed 
objectively." * 

" Man's extremity is God's opportunity " is the theo- 
logical way of putting this fact of the need of self-sur- 
render ; whilst the physiological way of stating it would 
be, " Let one do all in one's power, and one's nervous 
system will do the rest." Both statements acknowledge 
the same fact. 2 

To state it in terms of our own symbolism : When the 
new centre of personal energy has been subconsciously 
incubated so long as to be just ready to open into flower, 
' hands off ' is the only word for us, it must burst forth 
unaided ! 

We have used the vague and abstract language of psy- 
chology. But since, in any terms, the crisis described 
is the throwing of our conscious selves upon the mercy 
of powers which, whatever they may be, are more ideal 
than we are actually, and make for our redemption, you 
see why self -surrender has been and always must be re- 
garded as the vital turning-point of the religious life, 
so far as the religious life is spiritual and no affair of 
outer works and ritual and sacraments. One may say 
that the whole development of Christianity in inwardness 
1 Starbuck, p. 115. 2 Starbuck, p. 113. 


has consisted in little more than the greater and greater 
emphasis attached to this crisis of self-surrender. From 
Catholicism to Lutheranism, and then to Calvinism ; from 
that to Wesleyanism ; and from this, outside of technical 
Christianity altogether, to pure ' liberalism ' or tran- 
scendental idealism, whether or not of the mind-cure 
type, taking in the mediaeval mystics, the quietists, the 
pietists, and quakers by the way, we can trace the stages 
of progress towards the idea of an immediate spiritual 
help, experienced by the individual in his forlornness 
and standing in no essential need of doctrinal apparatus 
or propitiatory machinery. 

Psychology and religion are thus in perfect harmony 
up to this point, since both admit that there are forces 
seemingly outside of the conscious individual that bring 
redemption to his life. Nevertheless psychology, defin- 
ing these forces as ( subconscious,' and speaking of their 
effects as due to ' incubation,' or ' cerebration,' implies 
that they do not transcend the individual's personality ; 
and herein she diverges from Christian theology, which 
insists that they are direct supernatural operations of the 
Deity. I propose to you that we do not yet consider 
this divergence final, but leave the question for a while 
in abeyance continued inquiry may enable us to get 
rid of some of the apparent discord. 

Revert, then, for a moment more to the psychology of 

When you find a man living on the ragged edge of 
his consciousness, pent in to his sin and want and incom- 
pleteness, and consequently inconsolable, and then simply 
tell him that all is well with him, that he must stop his 
worry, break with his discontent, and give up his anxiety, 
you seem to him to come with pure absurdities. The 

CUlj- Suuy cw<* \jtri w t^v^tVoltfO^ *\ 


only positive consciousness he has tells him that all is not 
well, and the better way you offer sounds simply as if 
you proposed to him to assert cold-blooded falsehoods. 
\ The will to believe ' cannot be stretched as far as that. 
We can make ourselves more faithful to a belief of which 
we have the rudiments, but we cannot create a belief out 
of whole cloth when our perception actively assures us of 
its opposite. The better mind proposed to us comes in 
that case in the form of a pure negation of the only mind 
we have, and we cannot actively will a pure negation. 

There are only two ways in which it is possible to get 
rid of anger, worry, fear, despair, or other undesirable 
affections. One is that an opposite affection should over- 
poweringly break over us, and the other is by getting so 
exhausted with the struggle that we have to stop, so 
we drop down, give up, and don't care any longer. Our 
emotional brain-centres strike work, and we lapse into a 
temporary apathy. Now there is documentary proof that 
this state of temporary exhaustion not infrequently forms 
part of the conversion crisis. So long as the egoistic worry 
of the sick soul guards the door, the expansive confidence 
of the soul of faith gains no presence. But let the former 
faint away, even but for a moment, and the latter can 
profit by the opportunity, and, having once acquired 
possession, may retain it. Carlyle's Teuf elsdrockh passes 
from the everlasting No to the everlasting Yes through 
a ' Centre of Indifference.' 

Let me give you a good illustration of this feature 
in the conversion process. That genuine saint, David 
Brainerd, describes his own crisis in the following 
words : 

" One morning, while I was walking in a solitary place as 
usual, I at once saw that all my contrivances and projects to effect 
or procure deliverance and salvation for myself were utterly in 


vain ; I was brought quite to a stand, as finding myself totally 
lost. I saw that it was forever impossible for me to do anything 
towards helping or delivering myself, that I had made all the 
pleas I ever could have made to all eternity ; and that all my 
pleas were vain, for I saw that self-interest had led me to pray, 
and that I had never once prayed from any respect to the glory 
of God. I saw that there was no necessary connection between 
my prayers and the bestowment of divine mercy ; that they 
laid not the least obligation upon God to bestow his grace upon 
me ; and that there was no more virtue or goodness in them 
than there would be in my paddling with my hand in the water. 
I saw that I had been heaping up my devotions before God, 
fasting, praying, etc., pretending, and indeed really thinking 
sometimes that I was aiming at the glory of God ; whereas I 
never once truly intended it, but only my own happiness. I 
saw that as I had never done anything for God, I had no claim 
on anything from him but perdition, on account of my hypoc- 
risy and mockery. When I saw evidently that I had regard 
to nothing but self-interest, then my duties appeared a vile 
mockery and a continual course of lies, for the whole was no- 
thing but self-worship, and an horrid abuse of God. 

" I continued, as I remember, in this state of mind, from 
Friday morning till the Sabbath evening following (July 12, 
1739), when I was walking again in the same solitary place. 
Here, in a mournful melancholy state / was attempting to pray ; 
but found no heart to engage in that or any other duty ; my 
former concern, exercise, and religious affections were now 
gone. I thought that the Spirit of God had quite left me ; 
but still was not distressed ; yet disconsolate, as if there was 
nothing in heaven or earth could make me happy. Having 
been thus endeavoring to pray though, as I thought, very 
stupid and senseless for near half an hour; then, as I was 
walking in a thick grove, unspeakable glory seemed to open to 
the apprehension of my soul. I do not mean any external 
brightness, nor any imagination of a body of light, but it was a 
new inward apprehension or view that I had of God, such as I 
never had before, nor anything which had the least resemblance 
to it. I had no particular apprehension of any one person in 


the Trinity, either the Father, the Son, or the Holy Ghost ; but 
it appeared to be Divine glory. My soul rejoiced with joy un- 
speakable, to see such a God, such a glorious Divine Being; 
and I was inwardly pleased and satisfied that he should be 
God over all for ever and ever. My soul was so captivated 
and delighted with the excellency of God that I was even 
swallowed up in him ; at least to that degree that I had no 
thought about my own salvation, and scarce reflected that there 
was such a creature as myself. I continued in this state of 
inward joy, peace, and astonishing, till near dark without any 
sensible abatement ; and then began to think and examine what 
I had seen ; and felt sweetly composed in my mind all the even- 
ing following. I felt myself in a new world, and everything 
about me appeared with a different aspect from what it was 
wont to do. At this time, the way of salvation opened to me 
with such infinite wisdom, suitableness, and excellency, that I 
wondered I should ever think of any other way of salvation ; 
was amazed that I had not dropped my own contrivances, and 
complied with this lovely, blessed, and excellent way before. 
If I could have been saved by my own duties or any other way 
that I had formerly contrived, my whole soul would now have 
refused it. I wondered that all the world did not see and com- 
ply with this way of salvation, entirely by the righteousness of 
Christ." 1 

I have italicized the passage which records the exhaus- 
tion of the anxious emotion hitherto habitual. In a 
large proportion, perhaps the majority, of reports, the 
writers speak as if the exhaustion of the lower and the 
entrance of the higher emotion were simultaneous, 2 yet 

1 Edward's and Dwight's Life of Brainerd, New Haven, 1822, pp. 45- 
47, abridged. 

2 Describing tbe whole phenomenon as a change of equilibrium, we might 
say that the movement of new psychic energies towards the personal centre 
and the recession of old ones towards the margin (or the rising of some ob- 
jects above, and the sinking of others below the conscious threshold) were 
only two ways of describing an indivisible event. Doubtless this is often 
absolutely true, and Starbuck is right when he says that ' self-surrender ' 
and ' new determination,' though seeming at first sight to be such different 


often again they speak as if the higher actively drove the 
lower out. This is undoubtedly true in a great many 
instances, as we shall presently see. But often there 
seems little doubt that both conditions subconscious 
ripening of the one affection and exhaustion of the other 
must simultaneously have conspired, in order to pro- 
duce the result. 

T. W. B., a convert of Nettleton's, being brought to an acute 
paroxysm of conviction of sin, ate nothing all day, locked him- 
self in his room in the evening in complete despair, crying 
aloud, "How long, O Lord, how long?" "After repeating 
this and similar language," he says, " several times, / seemed 
to sink away into a state of insensibility. When I came to 
myself again I was on my knees, praying not for myself but 
for others. I felt submission to the will of God, willing that 
he should do with me as should seem good in his sight. My 
concern seemed all lost in concern for others." 1 

Our great American revivalist Finney writes : " I said to 
myself : * What is this ? I must have grieved the Holy Ghost 
entirely away. I have lost all my conviction. I have not a 
particle of concern about my soul ; and it must be that the 
Spirit has left me.' ' Why ! ' thought I, ' I never was so far 
from being concerned about my own salvation in my life.' . . . 
I tried to recall my convictions, to get back again the load of 
sin under which I had been laboring. I tried in vain to make 
myself anxious. I was so quiet and peaceful that I tried to 
feel concerned about that, lest it should be the result of my 
having grieved the Spirit away." 2 

But beyond all question there are persons in whom, 
quite independently of any exhaustion in the Subject's 
capacity for feeling, or even in the absence of any acute 

experiences, are " really the same thing. Self-surrender sees the change in 
terms of the old self ; determination sees it in terms of the new." Op. 
cit., p. 160. 

1 A. A. Bonar : Nettleton and his Labors, Edinburgh, 1854, p. 261. 

2 Charles G. Finney : Memoirs written by Himself, 1876, pp. 17, 18. 


previous feeling, the higher condition, having reached 
the due degree of energy, bursts through all barriers and 
sweeps in like a sudden flood. These are the most strik- 
ing and memorable cases, the cases of instantaneous con- 
version to which the conception of divine grace has been 
most peculiarly attached. I have given one of them at 
length the case of Mr. Bradley. But I had better re- 
serve the other cases and my comments on the rest of 
the subject for the following lecture. 


CONVERSION Concluded tCLAc Vy 

IN this lecture we have to finish the subject of Conver- 
sion, considering at first those striking instantaneous 
instances of which Saint Paul's is the most eminent, and 
in which, often amid tremendous emotional excitement 
or perturbation of the senses, a complete division is estab- 
lished in the twinkling of an eye between the old life 
and the new. Conversion of this type is an important 
phase of religious experience, owing to the part which it 
has played in Protestant theology, and it behooves us to 
study it conscientiously on that account. 

I think I had better cite two or three of these cases 
before proceeding to a more generalized account. One 
must know concrete instances first ; for, as Professor 
Agassiz used to say, one can see no farther into a gen- 
eralization than just so far as one's previous acquaintance 
with particulars enables one to take it in. I will go back, 
then, to the case of our friend Henry Alline, and quote 
his report of the 26th of March, 1775, on which his poor 
divided mind became unified for good. 

" As I was about sunset wandering in the fields lamenting 
my miserable lost and undone condition, and almost ready to 
sink under my burden, I thought I was in such a miserable 
case as never any man was before. I returned to the house, 
and when I got to the door, just as I was stepping off the 
threshold, the following impressions came into my mind like a 
powerful but small still voice. You have been seeking, pray- 


ing, reforming, laboring, reading, hearing, and meditating, and 
what have you done by it towards your salvation ? Are you 
any nearer to conversion now than when you first began ? Are 
you any more prepared for heaven, or fitter to appear before 
the impartial bar of God, than when you first began to seek? 

" It brought such conviction on me that I was obliged to say 
that I did not think I was one step nearer than at first, but as 
much condemned, as much exposed, and as miserable as before. 
I cried out within myself, O Lord God, I am lost, and if thou, 
O Lord, dost not find out some new way, I know nothing of, I 
shall never be saved, for the ways and methods I have pre- 
scribed to myself have all failed me, and I am willing they 
should fail. O Lord, have mercy ! O Lord, have mercy ! 

" These discoveries continued until I went into the house and 
sat down. After I sat down, being all in confusion, like a 
drowning man that was just giving up to sink, and almost in 
an agony, I turned very suddenly round in my chair, and see- 
ing part of an old Bible lying in one of the chairs, I caught 
hold of it in great haste ; and opening it without any premedi- 
tation, cast my eyes on the 38th Psalm, which was the first 
time I ever saw the word of God : it took hold of me with such 
power that it seemed to go through my whole soul, so that it 
seemed as if God was praying in, with, and for me. About 
this time my father called the family to attend prayers ; I at- 
tended, but paid no regard to what he said in his prayer, but 
continued praying in those words of the Psalm. Oh, help me, 
help me ! cried I, thou Redeemer of souls, and save me, or I am 
gone forever ; thou canst this night, if thou pleasest, with one 
drop of thy blood atone for my sins, and appease the wrath of 
an angry God. At that instant of time when I gave all up 
to him to do with me as he pleased, and was willing that God 
should rule over me at his pleasure, redeeming love broke into 
my soul with repeated scriptures, with such power that my 
whole soul seemed to be melted down with love ; the burden of 
guilt and condemnation was gone, darkness was expelled, my 
heart humbled and filled with gratitude, and my whole soul, 
that was a few minutes ago groaning under mountains of death, 
and crying to an unknown God for help, was now filled with 


immortal love, soaring on the wings of faith, freed from the 
chains of death and darkness, and crying out, My Lord and my 
God ; thou art my rock and my fortress, my shield and my 
high tower, my life, my joy, my present and my everlasting por- 
tion. Looking up, I thought I saw that same light [he had on 
more than one previous occasion seen subjectively a bright blaze 
of light] , though it appeared different ; and as soon as I saw 
it, the design was opened to me, according to his promise, and I 
was obliged to cry out : Enough, enough, O blessed God ! The 
work of conversion, the change, and the manifestations of it are 
no more disputable than that light which I see, or anything 
that ever I saw. 

" In the midst of all my joys, in less than half an hour after 
my soul was set at liberty, the Lord discovered to me my la- 
bor in the ministry and call to preach the gospel. I cried out, 
Amen, Lord, I '11 go ; send me, send me. I spent the greatest 
part of the night in ecstasies of joy, praising and adoring the 
Ancient of Days for his free and unbounded grace. After 
I had been so long in this transport and heavenly frame that 
my nature seemed to require sleep, I thought to close my eyes 
for a few moments ; then the devil stepped in, and told me 
that if I went to sleep, I should lose it all, and when I should 
awake in the morning I would find it to be nothing but a fancy 
and delusion. I immediately cried out, O Lord God, if I am 
deceived, undeceive me. 

" I then closed my eyes for a few minutes, and seemed to be 
refreshed with sleep ; and when I awoke, the first inquiry was, 
Where is my God ? And in an instant of time, my soul seemed 
awake in and with God, and surrounded by the arms of ever- 
lasting love. About sunrise I arose with joy to relate to my 
parents what God had done for my soul, and declared to them 
the miracle of God's unbounded grace. I took a Bible to show 
them the words that were impressed by God on my soul the 
evening before ; but when I came to open the Bible, it appeared 
all new to me. 

" I so longed to be useful in the cause of Christ, in preach- 
ing the gospel, that it seemed as if I could not rest any longer, 
but go I must and tell the wonders of redeeming love. I lost 


all taste for carnal pleasures, and carnal company, and was 
enabled to forsake them." 2 

Young Mr. Alline, after the briefest of delays, and 
with no book-learning but his Bible, and no teaching 
save that of his own experience, became a Christian min- 
ister, and thenceforward his life was fit to rank, for its 
austerity and single-mindedness, with that of the most 
devoted saints. But Happy as he became in his strenu- 
ous way, he never got his taste for even the most inno- 
cent carnal pleasures back. We must class him, like 
Bunyan and Tolstoy, amongst those upon whose soul the 
iron of melancholy left a permanent imprint. His re- 
demption was into another universe than this mere nat- 
ural world, and life remained for him a sad and patient 
trial. Years later we can find him making such an entry 
as this in his diary : " On Wednesday the 12th I preached 
at a wedding, and had the happiness thereby to be the 
means of excluding carnal mirth." 

The next case I will give is that of a correspond- 
ent of Professor Leuba, printed in the latter's article, 
already cited, in vol. vi. of the American Journal of 
Psychology. This subject was an Oxford graduate, the 
son of a clergyman, and the story resembles in many 
points the classic case of Colonel Gardiner, which every- 
body may be supposed to know. Here it is, somewhat 
abridged : 

" Between the period of leaving Oxford and my conversion I 
never darkened the door of my father's church, although I lived 
with him for eight years, making what money I wanted by 
journalism, and spending it in high carousal with any one who 
would sit with me and drink it away. So I lived, sometimes 
drunk for a week together, and then a terrible repentance, and 
would not touch a drop for a whole month. 

1 Life and Journals, Boston, 1806, pp. 31-40, abridged. 


" In all this period, that is, up to thirty-three years of age, I 
never had a desire to reform on religious grounds. But all my 
pangs were due to some terrible remorse I used to feel after a 
heavy carousal, the remorse taking the shape of regret after 
my folly in wasting my life in such a way a man of superior 
talents and education. This terrible remorse turned me gray 
in one night, and whenever it came upon me I was perceptibly 
grayer the next morning. What I suffered in this way is be- 
yond the expression of words. It was hell-fire in all its most 
dreadful tortures. Often did I vow that if I got over ' this 
time ' I would reform. Alas, in about three days I fully recov- 
ered, and was as happy as ever. So it went on for years, but, 
with a physique like a rhinoceros, I always recovered, and as 
long as I let drink alone, no man was as capable of enjoying 
life as I was. 

" I was converted in my own bedroom in my father's rectory 
house at precisely three o'clock in the afternoon of a hot July 
day (July 13, 1886). I was in perfect health, having been off 
from the drink for nearly a month. I was in no way troubled 
about my soul. In fact, God was not in my thoughts that day. 
A young lady friend sent me a copy of Professor Drummond's 
Natural Law in the Spiritual World, asking me my opinion of 
it as a literary work only. Being proud of my critical talents 
and wishing to enhance myself in my new friend's esteem, I 
took the book to my bedroom for quiet, intending to give it a 
thorough study, and then write her what I thought of it. It 
was here that God met me face to face, and I shall never for- 
get the meeting. ' He that hath the Son hath life eternal ; 
he that hath not the Son hath not life.' I had read this 
scores of times before, but this made all the difference. I was 
now in God's presence and my attention was absolutely 4 sol- 
dered ' on to this verse, and I was not allowed to proceed with 
the book till I had fairly considered what these words really 
involved. Only then was I allowed to proceed, feeling all the 
while that there was another being in my bedroom, though 
not seen by me. The stillness was very marvelous, and I felt 
supremely happy. It was most unquestionably shown me, in 
one second of time, that I had never touched the Eternal : and 


that if I died then, I must inevitably be lost. I was undone. 
I knew it as well as I now know I am saved. The Spirit of 
God showed it me in ineffable love ; there was no terror in it ; 
I felt God's love so powerfully upon me that only a mighty sor- 
row crept over me that I had lost all through my own folly ; and 
what was I to do ? What could I do ? I did not repent even ; 
God never asked me to repent. All I felt was ' I am undone,' 
and God cannot help it, although he loves me. No fault on 
the part of the Almighty. All the time I was supremely 
happy : I felt like a little child before his father. I had done 
wrong, but my Father did not scold me, but loved me most 
wondrously. Still my doom was sealed. I was lost to a cer- 
tainty, and being naturally of a brave disposition I did not 
quail under it, but deep sorrow for the past, mixed with regret 
for what I had lost, took hold upon me, and my soul thrilled 
within me to think it was all over. Then there crept in upon 
me so gently, so lovingly, so unmistakably, a way of escape, 
and what was it after all ? The old, old story over again, told 
in the simplest way : ' There is no name under heaven whereby 
ye can be saved except that of the Lord Jesus Christ.' No 
words were spoken to me ; my soul seemed to see my Saviour 
in the spirit, and from that hour to this, nearly nine years now, 
there has never been in my life one doubt that the Lord Jesus 
Christ and God the Father both worked upon me that after- 
noon in July, both differently, and both in the most perfect 
love conceivable, and I rejoiced there and then in a conversion 
so astounding that the whole village heard of it in less than 
twenty-four hours. 

" But a time of trouble was yet to come. The day after 
my conversion I went into the hay-field to lend a hand with 
the harvest, and not having made any promise to God to ab- 
stain or drink in moderation only, I took too much and came 
home drunk. My poor sister was heart-broken ; and I felt 
ashamed of myself and got to my bedroom at once, where she 
followed me, weeping copiously. She said I had been con- 
verted and fallen away instantly. But although I was quite 
full of drink (not muddled, however), I knew that God's work 
begun in me was not going to be wasted. About midday I 


made on my knees the first prayer before God for twenty years. 
I did not ask to be forgiven ; I felt that was no good, for I 
would be sure to fall again. Well, what did I do ? I com- 
mitted myself to him in the profoundest belief that my individ- 
uality was going to be destroyed, that he would take all from 
me, and I was willing. In such a surrender lies the secret of 
a holy life. From that hour drink has had no terrors for me : 
I never touch it, never want it. The same thing occurred with 
my pipe : after being a regular smoker from my twelfth year 
the desire for it went at once, and has never returned. So with 
every known sin, the deliverance in each case being permanent 
and complete. I have had no temptation since conversion, God 
seemingly having shut out Satan from that course with me. 
He gets a free hand in other ways, but never on sins of the 
flesh. Since I gave up to God all ownership in my own life, 
he has guided me in a thousand ways, and has opened my path 
in a way almost incredible to those who do not enjoy the bless- 
ing of a truly surrendered life." 

So much for our graduate of Oxford, in whom you 
notice the complete abolition of an ancient appetite as 
one of the conversion's fruits. 

The most curious record of sudden conversion with 
which I am acquainted is that of M. Alphonse Ratis- 
bonne, a freethinking French Jew, to Catholicism, at 
Rome in 1842. In a letter to a clerical friend, written a 
few months later, the convert gives a palpitating account of 
the circumstances. 1 The predisposing conditions appear 
to have been slight. He had an elder brother who had 
been converted and was a Catholic priest. He was him- 
self irreligious, and nourished an antipathy to the apos- 
tate brother and generally to his ' cloth.' Finding him- 
self at Rome in his twenty-ninth year, he fell in with a 

1 My quotations are made from an Italian translation of this letter in the 
Biografia del Sig. M. A. Ratisbonne, Ferrara, 1843, which I have to thank 
Monsignore D. O'Connell of Rome for bringing to my notice. I abridge 
the original. 


French gentleman who tried to make a proselyte of him, 
but who succeeded no farther after two or three conversa- 
tions than to get him to hang (half jocosely) a religious 
medal round his neck, and to accept and read a copy of 
a short prayer to the Virgin. M. Ratisbonne represents 
his own part in the conversations as having been of a light 
and chaffing order ; but he notes the fact that for some 
days he was unable to banish the words of the prayer 
from his mind, and that the night before the crisis he 
had a sort of nightmare, in the imagery of which a black 
cross with no Christ upon it figured. Nevertheless, until 
noon of the next day he was free in mind and spent the 
time in trivial conversations. I now give his own words. 

" If at this time any one had accosted me, sajung : ' Alphonse, 
in a quarter of an hour you shall be adoring Jesus Christ as 
your God and Saviour ; you shall lie prostrate with your face 
upon the ground in a humble church ; you shall be smiting 
your breast at the foot of a priest ; you shall pass the carnival 
in a college of Jesuits to prepare yourself to receive baptism, 
ready to give your life for the Catholic faith ; you shall re- 
nounce the world and its pomps and pleasures ; renounce your 
fortune, your hopes, and if need be, your betrothed ; the affec- 
tions of your family, the esteem of your friends, and your attach- 
ment to the Jewish people ; you shall have no other aspiration 
than to follow Christ and bear his cross till death ; ' if , I say, 
a prophet had come to me with such a prediction, I should have 
judged that only one person could be more mad than he, 
whosoever, namely, might believe in the possibility of such 
senseless folly becoming true. And yet that folly is at present 
my only wisdom, my sole happiness. 

" Coming out of the cafe I met the carriage of Monsieur B. 
[the proselyting friend]. He stopped and invited me in for a 
drive, but first asked me to wait for a few minutes whilst he 
attended to some duty at the church of San Andrea delle Fratte. 
Instead of waiting in the carriage, I entered the church myself 
to look at it. The church of San Andrea was poor, small, and 


empty ; I believe that I found myself there almost alone. No 
work of art attracted my attention ; and I passed my eyes 
mechanically over its interior without being arrested by any 
particular thought. I can only remember an entirely black 
dog which went trotting and turning before me as I mused In 
an instant the dog had disappeared, the whole church had van- 
ished, I no longer saw anything, ... or more truly I saw, O 
my God, one thing alone. 

" Heavens, how can I speak of it ? Oh no ! human words 
cannot attain to expressing the inexpressible. Any description, 
however sublime it might be, could be but a profanation of the 
unspeakable truth. 

" I was there prostrate on the ground, bathed in my tears, 
with my heart beside itself, when M. B. called me back to life. 
I could not reply to the questions which followed from him one 
upon the other. But finally I took the medal which I had on 
my breast, and with all the effusion of my soul I kissed the 
image of the Virgin, radiant with grace, which it bore. Oh, 
indeed, it was She ! It was indeed She ! [What he had seen 
had been a vision of the Virgin.] 

" I did not know where I was : I did not know whether I 
was Alphonse or another. I only felt myself changed and be- 
lieved myself another me ; I looked for myself in myself and 
did not find myself. In the bottom of my soul I felt an explo- 
sion of the most ardent joy ; I could not speak ; I had no wish 
to reveal what had happened. But I felt something solemn 
and sacred within me which made me ask for a priest. I was 
led to one ; and there, alone, after he had given me the positive 
order, I spoke as best I could, kneeling, and with my heart still 
trembling. I could give no account to myself of the truth 
of which I had acquired a knowledge and a faith. All that I 
can say is that in an instant the bandage had fallen from my 
eyes ; and not one bandage only, but the whole manifold of 
bandages in which I had been brought up. One after another 
they rapidly disappeared, even as the mud and ice disappear 
under the rays of the burning sun. 

" I came out as from a sepulchre, from an abyss of darkness ; 
and I was living, perfectly living. But I wept, for at the bot- 


torn of that gulf I saw the extreme of misery from which I had 
been saved by an infinite mercy ; and I shuddered at the sight 
of my iniquities, stupefied, melted, overwhelmed with wonder 
and with gratitude. You may ask me how I came to this new 
insight, for truly I had never opened a book of religion nor 
even read a single page of the Bible, and the dogma of original 
sin is either entirely denied or forgotten by the Hebrews of 
to-day, so that I had thought so little about it that I doubt 
whether I ever knew its name. But how came I, then, to this 
perception of it ? I can answer nothing save this, that on en- 
tering that church I was in darkness altogether, and on com- 
ing out of it I saw the fullness of the light. I can explain the 
change no better than by the simile of a profound sleep or the 
analogy of one born blind who should suddenly open his eyes 
to the day. He sees, but cannot define the light which bathes 
him and by means of which he sees the objects which excite his 
wonder. If we cannot explain physical light, how can we ex- 
plain the light which is the truth itself ? And I think I remain 
within the limits of veracity when I say that without having any 
knowledge of the letter of religious doctrine, I now intuitively 
perceived its sense and spirit. Better than if I saw them, T 
felt those hidden things ; I felt them by the inexplicable effects 
they produced in me. It all happened in my interior mind ; 
and those impressions, more rapid than thought, shook my soul, 
revolved and turned it, as it were, in another direction, towards 
other aims, by other paths. I express myself badly. But do 
you wish, Lord, that I should inclose in poor and barren words 
sentiments which the heart alone can understand ? " 

I might multiply cases almost indefinitely, but these 
will suffice to show you how real, definite, and memo- 
rable an event a sudden conversion may be to him who 
has the experience. Throughout the height of it he un- 
doubtedly seems to himself a passive spectator or under- 
goer of an astounding process performed upon him from 
above. There is too much evidence of this for any doubt 
of it to be possible. Theology, combining this fact with 
the doctrines of election and grace, has concluded that 


the spirit of God is with us at these dramatic moments 
in a peculiarly miraculous way, unlike what happens at 
any other juncture of our lives. At that moment, it be- 
lieves, an absolutely new nature is breathed into us, and 
we become partakers of the very substance of the Deity. 
That the conversion should be instantaneous seems 
called for on this view, and the Moravian Protestants ap- 
pear to have been the first to see this logical consequence. 
The Methodists soon followed suit, practically if not dog- 
matically, and a short time ere his death, John Wesley 
wrote : 

" In London alone I found 652 members of our Society who 
were exceeding clear in their experience, and whose testimony 
I could see no reason to doubt. And every one of these (with- 
out a single exception) has declared that his deliverance from 
sin was instantaneous ; that the change was wrought in a mo- 
ment. Had half of these, or one third, or one in twenty, de- 
clared it was gradually wrought in them, I should have believed 
this, with regard to them, and thought that some were gradually 
sanctified and some instantaneously. But as I have not found, 
in so long a space of time, a single person speaking thus, I can- 
not but believe that sanctification is commonly, if not always, 
an instantaneous work." Tyerman's Life of Wesley, i. 463. 

All this while the more usual sects of Protestantism 
have set no such store by instantaneous conversion. For 
them as for the Catholic Church, Christ's blood, the 
sacraments, and the individual's ordinary religious duties 
are practically supposed to suffice to his salvation, even 
though no acute crisis of self-despair and surrender fol- 
lowed by relief should be experienced. For Methodism, 
on the contrary, unless there have been a crisis of this 
sort, salvation is only offered, not effectively received, and 
Christ's sacrifice in so far forth is incomplete. Methodism 
surely here follows, if not the healthier-minded, yet on 

,t,<\*p\;%v* - %- \ M- w< v w 


the whole the profounder spiritual instinct. The indi- 
vidual models which it has set up as typical and worthy of 
imitation are not only the more interesting dramatically, 
but psychologically they have been the more complete. 

In the fully evolved Revivalism of Great Britain and 
America we have, so to speak, the codified and stereo- 
typed procedure to which this way of thinking has led. 
In sj)ite of the unquestionable fact that saints of the 
once-born type exist, that there may be a gradual growth 
in holiness without a cataclysm ; in spite of the obvious 
leakage (as one may say) of much mere natural goodness 
into the scheme of salvation ; revivalism has always as- 
sumed that only its own type of religious experience can 
be perfect ; you must first be nailed on the cross of 
natural despair and agony, and then in the twinkling 
of an eye be miraculously released. 

It is natural that those who personally have traversed 
such an experience should carry away a feeling of its 
being a miracle rather than a natural process. Voices 
are often heard, lights seen, or visions witnessed ; auto- 
matic motor phenomena occur ; and it always seems, after 
the surrender of the personal will, as if an extraneous 
higher power had flooded in and taken possession. More- 
over the sense of renovation, safety, cleanness, Tightness, 
can be so marvelous and jubilant as well to warrant 
one's belief in a radically new substantial nature. 

" Conversion," writes the New England Puritan, Joseph Al- 
leine, " is not the putting in a patch of holiness ; but with the 
true convert holiness is woven into all his powers, principles, 
and practice. The sincere Christian is quite a new fabric, from 
the foundation to the top-stone. He is a new man, a new 

And Jonathan Edwards says in the same strain : " Those 
gracious influences which are the effects of the Spirit of God 

NWyW .^Atlont^^ teWV-^tXe^ 


are altogether supernatural are quite different from anything 
that unregenerate men experience. They are what no improve- 
ment, or composition of natural qualifications or principles will 
ever produce ; because they not only differ from what is natu- 
ral, and from everything that natural men experience in degree 
and circumstances, but also in kind, and are of a nature far 
more excellent. From hence it follows that in gracious affec- 
tions there are [also] new perceptions and sensations entirely 
different in their nature and kind from anything experienced 
by the [same] saints before they were sanctified. . . . The con- 
ceptions which the saints have of the loveliness of God, and 
that kind of delight which they experience in it, are quite pe- 
culiar, and entirely different from anything which a natural 
man can possess, or of which he can form any proper notion." 

And that such a glorious transformation as this ought 
of necessity to be preceded by despair is shown by Ed- 
wards in another passage. 

" Surely it cannot be unreasonable," he says, " that before 
God delivers us from a state of sin and liability to everlast- 
ing woe, he should give us some considerable sense of the evil 
from which he delivers us, in order that we may know and feel 
the importance of salvation, and be enabled to appreciate the 
value of what God is pleased to do for us. As those who are 
saved are successively in two extremely different states first 
in a state of condemnation and then in a state of justification 
and blessedness and as God, in the salvation of men, deals 
with them as rational and intelligent creatures, it appears 
agreeable to this wisdom, that those who are saved should be 
made sensible of their Being, in those two different states. In 
the first place, that they should be made sensible of their state 
of condemnation ; and afterwards, of their state of deliverance 
and happiness." 

Such quotations express sufficiently well for our pur- 
pose the doctrinal interpretation of these changes. What- 
ever part suggestion and imitation may have played in 
producing them in men and women in excited assemblies, 


they have at any rate been in countless individual in- 
stances an original and unborrowed experience. Were 
we writing the story of the mind from the purely natural- 
history point of view, with no religious interest whatever, 
we should still have to write down man's liability to sud- 
den and complete conversion as one of his most curious 

What, now, must we ourselves think of this question ? 
Is an instantaneous conversion a miracle in which God is 
present as he is present in no change of heart less strik- 
ingly abrupt ? Are there two classes of human beings, 
even among the apparently regenerate, of which the one 
class really partakes of Christ's nature while the other 
merely seems to do so ? Or, on the contrary, may the 
whole phenomenon of regeneration, even in these star- 
tling instantaneous examples, possibly be a strictly natural 
process, divine in its fruits, of course, but in one case 
more and in another less so, and neither more nor less di- 
vine in its mere causation and mechanism than any other 
process, high or low, of man's interior life ? 

Before proceeding to answer this question, I must ask 
you to listen to some more psychological remarks. At 
our last lecture, I explained the shifting of men's centres 
of personal energy within them and the lighting up of 
new crises of emotion. I explained the phenomena as 
partly due to explicitly conscious processes of thought 
and will, but as due largely also to the subconscious incu- 
bation and maturing of motives deposited by the experi- 
ences of life. When ripe, the results hatch out, or burst 
into flower. I have now to speak of the subconscious 
region, in which such processes of flowering may occur, 
in a somewhat less vague way. I only regret that my 
limits of time here force me to be so short. 


The expression l field of consciousness ' has hut re- 
cently come into vogue in the psychology books. Until 
quite lately the unit of mental life which figured most 
was the single ' idea,' supposed to be a definitely out- 
lined thing. But at present psychologists are tending, 
first, to admit that the actual unit is more probably the 
total mental state, the entire wave of consciousness or 
field of objects present to the thought at any time; and, 
second, to see that it is impossible to outline this wave, 
this field, with any definiteness. 

As our mental fields succeed one another, each has its 
centre of interest, around which the objects of which we 
are less and less attentively conscious fade to a margin so 
faint that its limits are unassignable. Some fields are 
narrow fields and some are wide fields. Usually when 
we have a wide field we rejoice, for we then see masses 
of truth together, and often get glimpses of relations 
which we divine rather than see, for they shoot beyond 
the field into still remoter regions of objectivity, regions 
which we seem rather to be about to perceive than to per- 
ceive actually. At other times, of drowsiness, illness, or 
fatigue, our fields may narrow almost to a point, and we 
find ourselves correspondingly oppressed and contracted. 

Different individuals present constitutional differences 
in this matter of width of field. Your o*reat organizing" 
geniuses are men with habitually vast fields of mental 
vision, in which a whole programme of future operations 
will appear dotted out at once, the rays shooting far 
ahead into definite directions of advance. In common 
people there is never this magnificent inclusive view of a 
topic. They stumble along, feeling their way, as it were, 
from point to point, and often stop entirely. In certain 
diseased conditions consciousness is a mere spark, without 
memory of the past or thought of the future, and with the 


present narrowed down to some one simple emotion or 
sensation of the body. 

The important fact which this 'field' formula com- 
memorates is the indetermination of the margin. Inat- 
tentively realized as is the matter which the margin con- 
tains, it is nevertheless there, and helps both to guide our 
behavior and to determine the next movement of our at- 
tention. It lies around us like a ' magnetic field,' iuside 
of which our centre of energy turns like a compass-needle, 
as the present phase of consciousness alters into its suc- 
cessor. Our whole past store of memories floats beyond 
this margin, ready at a touch to come in ; and the entire 
mass of residual powers, impulses, and knowledges that 
constitute our empirical self stretches continuously be- 
yond it. So vaguely drawn are the outlines between 
what is actual and what is only potential at any moment 
of our conscious life, that it is always hard to say of 
certain mental elements whether we are conscious of 
them or not. 

The ordinary psychology, admitting fully the difficulty 
of tracing the marginal outline, has nevertheless taken 
for granted, first, that all the consciousness the person 
now has, be the same focal or marginal, inattentive or at- 
tentive, is there in the l field ' of the moment, all dim and 
impossible to assign as the latter's outline may be ; and, 
second, that what is absolutely extra-marginal is abso- 
lutely non-existent, and cannot be a fact of consciousness 
at all. 

And having reached this point, I must now ask you 
to recall what I said in my last lecture about the subcon- 
scious life. I said, as you may recollect, that those who 
first laid stress upon these phenomena could not know 
the facts as we now know them. My first duty now is to 
tell you what I meant by such a statement. 


I cannot but think that the most important step for- 
ward that has occurred in psychology since I have been 
a student of that science is the discovery, first made in 
1886, that, in certain subjects at least, there is not only 
the consciousness of the ordinary field, with its usual 
centre and margin, but an addition thereto in the shape 
of a set of memories, thoughts, and feelings which are 
extra-marginal and outside of the primary consciousness 
altogether, but yet must be classed as conscious facts of 
some sort, able to reveal their presence by unmistakable 
signs. I call this the most important step forward because, 
unlike the other advances which psychology has made, this 
discovery has revealed to us an entirely unsuspected pe- 
culiarity in the constitution of human nature. No other 
step forward which psychology has made can proffer any 
such claim as this. 

In particular this discovery of a consciousness existing 
beyond the field, or subliminally as Mr. Myers terms it, 
casts light on many phenomena of religious biography. 
That is why I have to advert to it now, although it is 
naturally impossible for me in this place to give you any 
account of the evidence on which the admission of such 
a consciousness is based. You will find it set forth in 
many recent books, Binet's Alterations of Personality * 
being perhaps as good a one as any to recommend. 

The human material on which the demonstration has 
been made has so far been rather limited and, in part at 
least, eccentric, consisting of unusually suggestible hyp- 
notic subjects, and of hysteric patients. Yet the elemen- 
tary mechanisms of our life are presumably so uniform 
that what is shown to be true in a marked degree of some 
persons is probably true in some degree of all, and may 
in a few be true in an extraordinarily high degree. 

1 Published in the International Scientific Series. 

- - 

^ ^^A, *-* r * vv - 1^ 

4aj <; < t * / 


The most important consequence of having a strongly 
developed ultra-marginal life of this sort is that one's 
ordinary fields of consciousness are liable to incursions 
from it of which the subject does not guess the source, 
and which, therefore, take for him the form of unaccount- 
able impulses to act, or inhibitions of action, of obsessive 
ideas, or even of hallucinations of sight or hearing. The 
impulses may take the direction of automatic speech or 
writing, the meaning of which the subject himself may 
not understand even while he utters it ; and generalizing 
this phenomenon, Mr. Myers has given the name of au- 
tomatism, sensory or motor, emotional or intellectual, to 
this whole sphere of effects, due to ' uprushes ' into the 
ordinary consciousness of energies originating in the sub- 
liminal parts of the mind. 

The simplest instance of an automatism is the phenom- 
enon of post-hypnotic suggestion, so-called. You give to 
a hypnotized subject, adequately susceptible, an order to 
perform some designated act usual or eccentric, it 
makes no difference after he wakes from his hypnotic 
sleep. Punctually, when the signal comes or the time 
elapses upon which you have told him that the act must 
ensue, he performs it ; but in so doing he has no recol- 
lection of your suggestion, and he always trumps up an 
improvised pretext for his behavior if the act be of an 
eccentric kind. It may even be suggested to a subject to 
have a vision or to hear a voice at a certain interval after 
waking, and when the time conies the vision is seen or 
the voice heard, with no inkling on the subject's part 
of its source. In the wonderful explorations by Binet, 
Janet, Breuer, Freud, Mason, Prince, and others, of the 
subliminal consciousness of patients with hysteria, we 
have revealed to us whole systems of underground life, 
in the shape of memories of a painful sort which lead a 


parasitic existence, buried outside of the primary fields of 
consciousness, and making irruptions thereinto with hallu- 
cinations, pains, convulsions, paralyses of feeling and of 
motion, and the whole procession of symptoms of hysteric 
disease of body and of mind. Alter or abolish by sug- 
gestion these subconscious memories, and the patient im- 
mediately gets well. His symptoms were automatisms, in 
Mr. Myers's sense of the word. These clinical records 
sound like fairy-tales when one first reads them, yet it is 
impossible to doubt their accuracy ; and, the path having 
been once opened by these first observers, similar obser- 
vations have been made elsewhere. They throw, as I 
said, a wholly new light upon our natural constitution. 

And it seems to me that they make a farther step inev- 
itable. Interpreting the unknown after the analogy of 
the known, it seems to me that hereafter, wherever we 
meet with a phenomenon of automatism, be it motor 
impulses, or obsessive idea, or unaccountable caprice, or 
delusion, or hallucination, we are bound first of all to 
make search whether it be not an explosion, into the 
fields of ordinary consciousness, of ideas elaborated outside 
of those fields in subliminal regions of the mind. We 
should look, therefore, for its source in the Subject's sub- 
conscious life. In the hypnotic cases, we ourselves create 
the source by our suggestion, so we know it directly. In 
the hysteric cases, the lost memories which are the source 
have to be extracted from the patient's Subliminal by a 
number of ingenious methods, for an account of which 
you must consult the books. In other pathological cases, 
insane delusions, for example, or psychopathic obsessions, 
the source is yet to seek, but by analogy it also should 
be in subliminal regions which improvements in our 
methods may yet conceivably put on top. There lies the 
mechanism logically to be assumed, but the assumption 


involves a vast program of work to be done in the way 
of verification, in which the religious experiences of man 
must play their part. 1 

And thus I return to our own specific subject of in- 
stantaneous conversions. You remember the cases of 
Alline, Bradley, Brainerd, and the graduate of Oxford 
converted at three in the afternoon. Similar occurrences 
abound, some with and some without luminous visions, 
all with a sense of astonished happiness, and of being 
wrought on by a higher control. If, abstracting alto- 
gether from the question of their value for the future 
spiritual life of the individual, we take them on their psy- 

1 The reader will here please notice that in my exclusive reliance in the 
last lecture on the subconscious 'incubation' of motives deposited by a 
growing experience, I followed the method of employing accepted princi- 
ples of explanation as far as one can. The subliminal region, whatever else 
it may be, is at any rate a place now admitted by psychologists to exist for 
the accumulation of vestiges of sensible experience (whether inattentively 
or attentively registered), and for their elaboration according to ordinary 
psychological or logical laws into results that end by attaining such a ' ten- 
sion' that they may at times enter consciousness with something like a burst. 
It thus is ' scientific ' to interpret all otherwise unaccountable invasive altera- 
tions of consciousness as results of the tension of subliminal memories reach- 
ing the bursting-point. But candor obliges me to confess that there are 
occasional bursts into consciousness of results of which it is not easy to 
demonstrate any prolonged subconscious incubation. Some of the cases I 
used to illustrate the sense of presence of the unseen in Lecture III were of 
this order (compare pages 59, 61, 62, 67) ; and we shall see other experiences 
of the kind when we come to the subject of mysticism. The case of Mr. 
Bradley, that of M. Ratisbonne, possibly that of Colonel Gardiner, possibly 
that of Saint Paul, might not be so easily explained in this simple way. 
The result, then, would have to be ascribed either to a merely physiological 
nerve storm, a ' discharging lesion ' like that of epilepsy ; or, in case it 
were useful and rational, as in the two latter cases named, to some more 
mystical or theological hypothesis. I make this remark in order that the 
reader may realize that the subject is really complex. But I shall keep 
myself as far as possible at present to the more 'scientific ' view; and only 
as the plot thickens in subsequent lectures shall I consider the question of 
its absolute sufficiency as an explanation of all the facts. That subconscious 
incubation explains a great number of them, there can be no doubt. 


etiological side exclusively, so many peculiarities in them 
remind us of what we find outside of conversion that we 
are tempted to class them along with other automatisms, 
and to suspect that what makes the difference between a 
sudden and a gradual convert is not necessarily the pre- 
sence of divine miracle in the case of one and of some- 
thing less divine in that of the other, but rather a simple 
psychological peculiarity, the fact, namely, that in the re- 
cipient of the more instantaneous grace we have one of 
those Subjects who are in possession of a large region in 
which mental work can go on subliminally, and from 
which invasive experiences, abruptly upsetting the equilib- 
rium of the primary consciousness, may come. 

I do not see why Methodists need object to such a 
view. Pray go back and recollect one of the conclusions 
to which I sought to lead you in my very first lecture. 
You may remember how I there argued against the no- 
tion that the worth of a thing can be decided by its 
origin. Our spiritual judgment, I said, our opinion of 
the significance and value of a human event or condition, 
must be decided on empirical grounds exclusively. If 
the fruits for life of the state of conversion are good, 
we ought to idealize and venerate it, even though it be 
a piece of natural psychology ; if not, we ought to make 
short work with it, no matter what supernatural being 
may have infused it. 

Well, how is it with these fruits ? If we except the 
class of preeminent saints of whom the names illumine 
history, and consider only the usual run of ' saints,' the 
shopkeeping church-members and ordinary youthful or 
middle-aged recipients of instantaneous conversion, 
whether at revivals or in the spontaneous course of meth- 
odistic growth, you will probably agree that no splendor 
worthy of a wholly supernatural creature fulgurates from 


them, or sets them apart from the mortals who have never 
experienced that favor. Were it true that a suddenly 
converted man as such is, as Edwards says, 1 of an en- 
tirely different kind from a natural man, partaking as he 
does directly of Christ's substance, there surely ought to 
be some exquisite class-mark, some distinctive radiance 
attaching even to the lowliest specimen of this genus, to 
which no one of us coidd remain insensible, and which, 
so far as it went, would prove him more excellent than 
ever the most highly gifted among mere natural men. 
But notoriously there is no such radiance. Converted 
men as a class are indistinguishable from natural men ; 
some natural men even excel some converted men in 
their fruits ; and no one ignorant of doctrinal theology 
could guess by mere every-day inspection of the ' acci- 
dents ' of the two groups of persons before him, that 
their substance differed as much as divine differs from 
human substance. 

The believers in the non-natural character of sudden 
conversion have had practically to admit that there is no 
unmistakable class-mark distinctive of all true converts. 
The super-normal incidents, such as voices and visions 
and overpowering impressions of the meaning of sud- 
denly presented scripture texts, the melting emotions and 
tumultuous affections connected with the crisis of change, 
may all come by way of nature, or worse still, be counter- 
feited by Satan. The real witness of the spirit to the 
second birth is to be found only in the disposition of 
the genuine child of God, the permanently patient heart, 
the love of self eradicated. And this, it has to be ad- 

1 Edwards says elsewhere : " I am bold to say that the work of God in 
the conversion of one soul, considered together with the source, foundation, 
and purchase of it, and also the benefit, end, and eternal issue of it, is a 
more glorious work of God than the creation of the whole material uni- 


mitted, is also found in those who pass no crisis, and may 
even be found outside of Christianity altogether. 

Throughout Jonathan Edwards's admirably rich and 
delicate description of the supernaturally infused condi- 
tion, in his Treatise on Religious Affections, there is not 
one decisive trait, not one mark, that unmistakably parts 
it off from what may possibly be only an exceptionally 
high degree of natural goodness. In fact, one could 
hardly read a clearer argument than this book unwit- 
tingly offers in favor of the thesis that no chasm exists 
between the orders of human excellence, but that here as 
elsewhere, nature shows continuous differences, and gen- 
eration and regeneration are matters of degree. 

All which denial of two objective classes of human 
beings separated by a chasm must not leave us blind to 
the extraordinary momentousness of the fact of his con- 
version to the individual himself who gets converted. 
There are higher and lower limits of possibility set to 
each personal life. If a flood but goes above one's head, 
its absolute elevation becomes a matter of small impor- 
tance ; and when we touch our own upper limit and live 
in our own highest centre of energy, we may call our- 
selves saved, no matter how much higher some one else's 
centre may be. A small man's salvation will always be 
a great salvation and the greatest of all facts for him, 
and we should remember this when the fruits of our ordi- 
nary evangelicism look discouraging. Who knows how 
much less ideal still the lives of these spiritual grubs and 
earthworms, these Crumps and Stigginses, might have 
been, if such poor grace as they have received had never 
touched them at all ? ! 

1 Emerson writes : " When we see a soul whose acts are regal, graceful, 
and pleasant as roses, we must thank God that such things can be and are, 
and not turn sourly on the angel and say : Crump is a better man, with his 
grunting resistance to all his native devils." True enough. Yet Crump 


If we roughly arrange human beings in classes, each 
class standing for a grade of spiritual excellence, I be- 
lieve we shall find natural men and converts both sud- 
den and gradual in all the classes. The forms which 
regenerative change effects have, then, no general spirit- 
ual significance, but only a psychological significance. 
We have seen how Starbuck's laborious statistical studies 
tend to assimilate conversion to ordinary spiritual growth. 
Another American psychologist, Professor A. Coe, 1 has 
analyzed the cases of seventy-seven converts or ex-can- 
didates for conversion, known to him, and the results 
strikingly confirm the view that sudden conversion is 
connected with the possession of an active subliminal self. 
Examining his subjects with reference to their hypnotic 
sensibility and to such automatisms as hypnagogic hallu- 
cinations, odd impulses, religious dreams about the time 
of their conversion, etc., he found these relatively much 
more frequent in the group of converts whose transforma- 
tion had been ' striking,' ' striking ' transformation being 
defined as a change which, though not necessarily in- 
stantaneous, seems to the subject of it to be distinctly 
different from a process of growth, however rapid." 2 
Candidates for conversion at revivals are, as you know, 
often disappointed : they experience nothing striking. 
Professor Coe had a number of persons of this class among 
his seventy-seven subjects, and they almost all, when tested 
by hypnotism, proved to belong to a subclass which he 

may really be the better Crump, for bis inner discords and second birth ; 
and your once-born regal ' character, though indeed always better than 
poor Crump, may fall far short of what he individually might be had he 
only some Crump-like capacity for compunction over his own peculiar 
diabolisms, graceful and pleasant and invariably gentlemanly as these 
may be. 

1 In his book, The Spiritual Life, New York, 1900. 

2 Op. cit., p. 112. 


calls ' spontaneous/ that is, fertile in self-suggestions, as 
distinguished from a ' passive ' subclass, to which most of 
the subjects of striking transformation belonged. His 
inference is that self-suggestion of impossibility had pre- 
vented the influence upon these persons of an environ- 
ment which, on the more ' passive ' subjects, had easily 
brought forth the effects they looked for. Sharp distinc- 
tions are difficult in these regions, and Professor Coe's 
numbers are small. But his methods were careful, and 
the results tally with what one might expect ; and they 
seem, on the whole, to justify his practical conclusion, 
which is that if you should expose to a converting influ- 
ence a subject in whom three factors unite : first, pro- 
nounced emotional sensibility ; second, tendency to auto- 
matisms ; and third, suggestibility of the passive type ; 
you might then safely predict the result : there would be 
a sudden conversion, a transformation of the striking kind. 

Does this temperamental origin diminish the signifi- 
cance of the sudden conversion when it has occurred ? 
Not in the least, as Professor Coe well says ; for " the \y 
ultimate test of religious values is nothing psychologi- 
cal, nothing definable in terms of how it happens, but 
something ethical, definable only in terms of what is 
attained." 1 

As we proceed farther in our inquiry we shall see that 
what is attained is often an altogether new level of spir- 
itual vitality, a relatively heroic level, in which impos- 
sible things have become possible, and new energies and 
endurances are shown. The personality is changed, 
the man is born anew, whether or not his psychological 
idiosyncrasies are what give the particular shape to his 
metamorphosis. ' Sanctification ' is the technical name 
of this result ; and erelong examples of it shall be brought 

1 Op. cit., p. 144. 

V*W*t7- fc-*** *) vv\i<y 

\ O \JL^> 


before you. In this lecture I have still only to add a lew 
remarks <>n the assurance and peace which nil the hour of 
change itself. 

One word more, though, before proceeding to thai 

point, lesl the final purpose of my explanation of .sudden- 
ness by subliminal activity lie misunderstood. I do in- 
deed believe thai il the Subject have? no liability to such 

Subconscious activity, or it his conscious fields have a 
hard rind of a margin that resists incursions from he- 
yond il, Ids conversion must he gradual if it occur, and 

must resemble any simple growth into new habits. His 

possession of a developed subliminal self, and of a leaky 

or pervious margin, is thus a c<>iitli/i<> sine qua >">>> of 

the Subject's becoming con veiled in the instantaneous 

way. But if you, being orthodox Christians, ash me as 
a psychologist whether the reference of a phenomenon 

to a subliminal sell' does not exclude the notion of the 
direct, presence; of the Deity altogether, I have to say 
frankly that ;is a psychologist I do not see why it, neces- 
sarily should. The lower manifestations of the Sub- 
liminal, indeed, fall within the resources of the personal 

subject: his ordinary sense-material, inattentively taken 
in and subconsciously remembered and combined, will 

account, for all his usual automatisms. But just as our 
primary wide-awake consciousness throws open our senses 

to the touch of things material, so it is logically con- 
ceivable that if there be higher spiritual agencies thai can 

directly touch us, the psychological condition of their 

doing bo might be our possession of a subconscious region 

which alone should yield access to them. The huhhuh of 

the waking life might close a door which in the dreamy 
Subliminal might remain ajar or open. 

Thus that perception of external control which is so 


essential a feature in conversion might, in some cases at 
any rate, be interpreted as the orthodox interpret it : 
forces transcending the finite individual might impress 
him, on condition of his being what we may call a sub- 
liminal human specimen. But in any case the value of 
these forces would have to be determined by their effects, 
and the mere fact of their transcendency would of itself 
establish no presumption that they were more divine than 

I confess that this is the way in which I should rather 
see the topic left lying in your minds until I come to 
a much later lecture, when I hope once more to gather 
these dropped threads together into more definitive con- 
clusions. The notion of a subconscious self certainly 
ought not at this point of our inquiry to be held to 
exclude all notion of a higher penetration. If there be 
higher powers able to impress us, they may get access to us 
only through the subliminal door. (See below, p. 515 ff.J 

Let us turn now to the feelings which immediately fill 
the hour of the conversion experience. The first one to 
be noted is just this sense of higher control. It is not 
always, but it is very often present. We saw examples of 
it in Alline, Bradley, Brainerd, and elsewhere. The need 
of such a higher controlling agency is well expressed in 
the short reference which the eminent French Protestant 
Adolphe Monod makes to the crisis of his own con- 
version. It was at Naples in his early manhood, in the 
summer of 1827. 

" My sadness," he says, " was without limit, and having got 
entire possession of me, it filled my life from the most indiffer- 
ent external acts to the most secret thoughts, and corrupted at 
their source my feelings, my judgment, and my happiness. It 
was then that I saw that to expect to put a stop to this disorder 


by my reason and my will, which were themselves diseased, 
would be to act like a blind man who should pretend to correct 
one of his eyes by the aid of the other equally blind one. I had 
then no resource save in some influence from without. I re- 
membered the promise of the Holy Ghost ; and what the positive 
declarations of the Gospel had never succeeded in bringing 
home to me, I learned at last from necessity, and believed, for 
the first time in my life, in this promise, in the only sense in 
which it answered the needs of my soul, in that, namely, of a 
real external supernatural action, capable of giving me thoughts, 
and taking them away from me, and exerted on me by a God 
as truly master of my heart as he is of the rest of nature. Re- 
nouncing then all merit, all strength, abandoning all my per- 
sonal resources, and acknowledging no other title to his mercy 
than my own utter misery, I went home and threw myself on 
my knees, and prayed as I never yet prayed in my life. From 
this day onwards a new interior life began for me : not that 
my melancholy had disappeared, but it had lost its sting. 
Hope had entered into my heart, and once entered on the path, 
the God of Jesus Christ, to whom I then had learned to give 
myself up, little by little did the rest." 1 

It is needless to remind you once more of the admira- 
ble congruity of Protestant theology with the structure 
of the mind as shown in such experiences. In the ex- 
treme of melancholy the self that consciously is can do 
absolutely nothing. It is completely bankrupt and with- 
out resource, and no works it can accomplish will avail. 
Redemption from such subjective conditions must be a 
free gift or nothing, and grace through Christ's accom- 
plished sacrifice is such a gift. 

"God," says Luther, "is the God of the humble, the miser- 
able, the oppressed, and the desperate, and of those that are 
brought even to nothing ; and his nature is to give sight to the 

1 I piece together a quotation made by W. Monod, in his book la Vie, 
and a letter printed in the work : Adolphe Monod : I., Souvenirs de sa Vie, 
1885, p. 433. 


blind, to comfort the broken-hearted, to justify sinners, to save 
the very desperate and damned. Now that pernicious and 
pestilent opinion of man's own righteousness, which will not be 
a sinner, unclean, miserable, and damnable, but righteous and 
holy, suffereth not God to come to his own natural and proper 
work. Therefore God must take this maul in hand (the law, I 
mean) to beat in pieces and bring to nothing this beast with 
her vain confidence, that she may so learn at length by her own 
misery that she is utterly forlorn and damned. But here lieth 
the difficulty, that when a man is terrified and cast down, he is 
so little able to raise himself up again and say, ' Now I am 
bruised and afflicted enough ; now is the time of grace ; now is 
the time to hear Christ.' The foolishness of man's heart is so 
great that then he rather seeketh to himself more laws to satisfy 
his conscience. ' If I live,' saith he, ' I will amend my life : I 
will do this, I will do that.' But here, except thou do the quite 
contrary, except thou send Moses away with his law, and in 
these terrors and this anguish lay hold upon Christ who died 
for thy sins, look for no salvation. Thy cowl, thy shaven 
crown, thy chastity, thy obedience, thy poverty, thy works, thy 
merits ? what shall all these do ? what shall the law of Moses 
avail? If I, wretched and damnable sinner, through works 
or merits could have loved the Son of God, and so come to 
him, what needed he to deliver himself for me? If I, being a 
wretch and damned sinner, could be redeemed by any other 
price, what needed the Son of God to be given ? But because 
there was no other price, therefore he delivered neither sheep, 
ox, gold, nor silver, but even God himself, entirely and wholly 
' for me,' even ' for me,' I say, a miserable, wretched sinner. 
Now, therefore, I take comfort and apply this to myself. And 
this manner of applying is the very true force and power 
of faith. For he died not to justify the righteous, but the 
ww-righteous, and to make them the children of God." 1 

That is, the more literally lost you are, the more liter- 
ally you are the very being whom Christ's sacrifice has 
already saved. Nothing in Catholic theology, I imagine, 

1 Commentary on Galatians, cb. iii. verse 19, and ch. ii. verse 20, abridged. 


has ever spoken to sick souls as straight as this message 
from Luther's personal experience. As Protestants are 
not all sick souls, of course reliance on what Luther ex- 
ults in calling the dung of one's merits, the filthy pud- 
dle of one's own righteousness, has come to the front 
again in their religion ; but the adequacy of his view of 
Christianity to the deeper parts of our human mental 
structure is shown by its wildfire contagiousness when it 
was a new and quickening thing. 

Faith that Christ has genuinely done his work was 
part of what Luther meant by faith, which so far is faith 
in a fact intellectually conceived of. But this is only 
one part of Luther's faith, the other part being far more 
vital. This other part is something not intellectual but 
immediate and intuitive, the assurance, namely, that I, 
this individual I, just as I stand, without one plea, etc., 
am saved now and forever. 1 

Professor Leuba is undoubtedly right in contending 
that the conceptual belief about Christ's work, although 
so often efficacious and antecedent, is really accessory and 
non-essential, and that the ' joyous conviction ' can also 

1 In some conversions, both steps are distinct ; in this one, for exam- 
ple : 

" Whilst I was reading the evangelical treatise, I was soon struck by an 
expression : ' the finished work of Christ.' ' Why,' I asked of myself, ' does 
the author use these terms ? Why does he not say " the atoning work " ? ' 
Then these words, ' It is finished,' presented themselves to my mind. ' What 
is it that is finished ? ' I asked, and in an instant my mind replied : A per- 
fect expiation for sin ; entire satisfaction has been given ; the debt has 
been paid by the Substitute. Christ has died for our sins ; not for ours 
only, but for those of all men. If, then, the entire work is finished, all the 
debt paid, what remains for me to do ? ' In another instant the light was 
shed through my mind by the Holy Ghost, and the joyous conviction was 
given me that nothing more was to be done, save to fall on my knees, 
to accept this Saviour and his love, to praise God forever." Autobiogra- 
phy of Hudson Taylor. I translate back into English from the French 
translation of Challand (Geneva, no date), the original not being acces- 


come by far other channels than this conception. It is to 
the joyous conviction itself, the assurance that all is well 
with one, that he would give the name of faith par 

" When the sense of estrangement," he writes, " fencing 
man about in a narrowly limited ego, breaks down, the individ- 
ual finds himself ' at one with all creation.' He lives in the 
universal life ; he and man, he and nature, he and God, are 
one. That state of confidence, trust, union with all things, 
following upon the achievement of moral unity, is the Faith- 
state. Various dogmatic beliefs suddenly, on the advent of 
the faith-state, acquire a character of certainty, assume a new 
reality, become an object of faith. As the ground of assurance 
here is not rational, argumentation is irrelevant. But such 
conviction being a mere casual offshoot of the faith-state, it is a 
gross error to imagine that the chief practical value of the faith- 
state is its power to stamp with the seal of reality certain par- 
ticular theological conceptions. 1 On the contrary, its value 
lies solely in the fact that it is the psychic correlate of a biolo- 
gical growth reducing contending desires to one direction ; a 
growth which expresses itself in new affective states and new 
reactions ; in larger, nobler, more Christ-like activities. The 
ground of the specific assurance in religious dogmas is then an 
affective experience. The objects of faith may even be prepos- 
terous ; the affective stream will float them along, and invest 
them with unshakable certitude. The more startling the af- 
fective experience, the less explicable it seems, the easier it is 
to make it the carrier of unsubstantiated notions." 2 

The characteristics of the affective experience which, 
to avoid ambiguity, should, I think, be called the state of 
assurance rather than the faith-state, can be easily enu- 
merated, though it is probably difficult to realize their 

1 Tolstoy's case was a good comment on those words. There was almost 
no theology in his conversion. His faith-state was the sense come back that 
life was infinite in its moral significance. 

2 American Journal of Psychology, vii. 345-347, abridged. 


intensity, unless one have been through the experience 
one's self. 

The central one is the loss of all the worry, the sense 
that all is ultimately well with one, the peace, the har- 
mony, the loillingness to be, even though the outer con- 
ditions should remain the same. The certainty of God's 
' grace,' of 'justification,' 'salvation,' is an objective be- 
lief that usually accompanies the change in Christians ; 
but this may be entirely lacking and yet the affective 
peace remain the same you will recollect the case of 
the Oxford graduate : and many might be given where 
the assurance of personal salvation was only a later 
result. A passion of willingness, of acquiescence, of 
admiration, is the glowing centre of this state of mind. 

The second feature is the sense of perceiving truths 
not known before. The mysteries of life become lucid, as 
Professor Leuba says ; and often, nay usually, the solution 
is more or less unutterable in words. But these more 
intellectual phenomena may be postponed until we treat 
of mysticism. 

A third peculiarity of the assurance state is the objec- 
tive change which the world often appears to undergo. 
' An appearance of newness beautifies every object,' the 
precise opposite of that other sort of newness, that dread- 
ful unreality and strangeness in the appearance of the 
world, which is experienced by melancholy patients, and of 
which you may recall my relating some examples. 1 This 
sense of clean and beautiful newness within and without 
is one of the commonest entries in conversion records. 
Jonathan Edwards thus describes it in himself : 

" After this my sense of divine things gradually increased, 
and became more and more lively, and had more of that inward 
sweetness. The appearance of everything was altered ; there 

1 Above, p. 152. 


seemed to be, as it were, a calm, sweet cast, or appearance of 
divine glory, in almost everything. God's excellency, his wis- 
dom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in everything ; in 
the sun, moon, and stars ; in the clouds and blue sky ; in the 
grass, flowers, and trees ; in the water and all nature ; which 
used greatly to fix my mind. And scarce anything, among all 
the works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder and light- 
ning ; formerly nothing had been so terrible to^me. Before, I 
used to be uncommonly terrified with thunder, and to be struck 
with terror when I saw a thunderstorm rising ; but now, on the 
contrary, it rejoices me." * 

Billy Bray, an excellent little illiterate English evan- 
gelist, records his sense of newness thus : 

" I said to the Lord : ' Thou hast said, they that ask shall 
receive, they that seek shall find, and to them that knock the 
door shall be opened, and I have faith to believe it.' In an 
instant the Lord made me so happy that I cannot express what 
I felt. I shouted for joy. I praised God with my whole heart. 
... I think this was in November, 1823, but what day of the 
month I do not know. I remember this, that everything looked 
new to me, the people, the fields, the cattle, the trees. I was 
like a new man in a new world. I spent the greater part of my 
time in praising the Lord." 2 

Starbuck and Leuba both illustrate this sense of new- 
ness by quotations. I take the two following from Star- 
buck's manuscript collection. One, a woman, says : 

" I was taken to a camp-meeting, mother and religious friends 
seeking and praying for my conversion. My emotional nature 
was stirred to its depths ; confessions of depravity and pleading 
with God for salvation from sin made me oblivious of all sur- 
roundings. I plead for mercy, and had a vivid realization of 
forgiveness and renewal of my nature. When rising from my 
knees I exclaimed, ' Old things have passed away, all things 

1 Dwight : Life of Edwards, New York, 1830, p. 61, abridged. 

2 W. F. Bourne : The King's Son, a Memoir of Billy Bray, London, 
Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1887, p. 9. 


have become new.' It was like entering another world, a new 
state of existence. Natural objects were glorified, my spiritual 
vision was so clarified that I saw beauty in every material ob- 
ject in the universe, the woods were vocal with heavenly music ; 
my soul exulted in the love of God, and I wanted everybody to 
share in my joy." 

The next case is that of a man : 

" I know not how I got back into the encampment, but found 

myself staggering up to Rev. 's Holiness tent and as it 

was full of seekers and a terrible noise inside, some groaning, 
some laughing, and some shouting, and by a large oak, ten feet 
from the tent, I fell on my face by a bench, and tried to pray, 
and every time I would call on God, something like a man's hand 
would strangle me by choking. I don't know whether there 
were any one around or near me or not. I thought I should 
surely die if I did not get help, but just as often as I would 
pray, that unseen hand was felt on my throat and my breath 
squeezed off. Finally something said : ' Venture on the atone- 
ment, for you will die anyway if you don't.' So I made one final 
struggle to call on God for mercy, with the same choking and 
strangling, determined to finish the sentence of prayer for 
Mercy, if I did strangle and die, and the last I remember that 
time was falling back on the ground with the same unseen hand 
on my throat. I don't know how long I lay there or what was 
going on. None of my folks were present. When I came to 
myself, there were a crowd around me praising God. The very 
heavens seemed to open and pour down rays of light and glory. 
Not for a moment only, but all day and night, floods of light 
and glory seemed to pour through my soul, and oh, how I was 
changed, and everything became new. My horses and hogs 
and even everybody seemed changed." 

This man's case introduces the feature of automatisms, 
which in suggestible subjects have been so startling a 
feature at revivals since, in Edwards's, Wesley's, and 
Whitfield's time, these became a regular means of gospel- 
propagation. They were at first supposed to be semi- 


miraculous proofs of ' power ' on the part of the Holy 
Ghost ; but great divergence of opinion quickly arose 
concerning them. Edwards, in his Thoughts on the Re- 
vival of Religion in New England, has to defend them 
against their critics ; and their value has long been mat- 
ter of debate even within the revivalistic denominations. 1 
They undoubtedly have no essential spiritual significance, 
and although their presence makes his conversion more 
memorable to the convert, it has never been proved that 
converts who show them are more persevering or fertile 
in good fruits than those whose change of heart has 
had less violent accompaniments. On the whole, uncon- 
sciousness, convulsions, visions, involuntary vocal utter- 
ances, and suffocation, must be simply ascribed to the 
subject's having a large subliminal region, involving 
nervous instability. This is often the subject's own view 
of the matter afterwards. One of Starbuck's correspond- 
ents writes, for instance : 

" I have been through the experience which is known as con- 
version. My explanation of it is this : the subject works his 
emotions up to the breaking point, at the same time resisting 
their physical manifestations, such as quickened pulse, etc., and 
then suddenly lets them have their full sway over his body. 
The relief is something wonderful, and the pleasurable effects 
of the emotions are experienced to the highest degree." 

There is one form of sensory automatism which possi- 
bly deserves special notice on account of its frequency. 
I refer to hallucinatory or pseudo-hallucinatory luminous 
phenomena, jihotisms, to use the term of the psycholo- 
gists. Saint Paul's blinding heavenly vision seems to 
have been a phenomen of this sort ; so does Constantine's 

1 Consult William B. Sprague : Lectures on Revivals of Religion, New 
York, 1832, in the long Appendix to which the opinions of a large number 
of ministers are given. 


cross in the sky. The last case but one which I quoted 
mentions floods of light and glory. Henry Alline men- 
tions a light, about whose externality he seems uncertain. 
Colonel Gardiner sees a blazing light. President Finney 
writes : 

" All at once the glory of God shone upon and round about 
me in a manner almost marvelous. ... A light perfectly inef- 
fable shone in my soul, that almost prostrated me on the ground. 
. . . This light seemed like the brightness of the sun in every 
direction. It was too intense for the eyes. ... I think I knew 
something then, by actual experience, of that light that pros- 
trated Paul on the way to Damascus. It was surely a light 
such as I could not have endured long." 1 

Such reports of photisms are indeed far from uncom- 
mon. Here is another from Starbuck's collection, where 
the light appeared evidently external : 

" I had attended a series of revival services for about two 
weeks off and on. Had been invited to the altar several times, 
all the time becoming more deeply impressed, when finally I 
decided I must do this, or I should be lost. Realization of 
conversion was very vivid, like a ton's weight being lifted from 
my heart ; a strange light which seemed to light up the whole 
room (for it was dark) ; a conscious supreme bliss which caused 
me to repeat ' Glory to God ' for a long time. Decided to be 
God's child for life, and to give up my pet ambition, wealth and 
social position. My former habits of life hindered my growth 
somewhat, but I set about overcoming these systematically, and 
in one year my whole nature was changed, i. e., my ambitions 
were of a different order." 

Here is another one of Starbuck's cases, involving a 
luminous element : 

" I had been clearly converted twenty-three years before, or 
rather reclaimed. My experience in regeneration was then 
clear and spiritual, and I had not backslidden. But I expe- 

1 Memoirs, p. 34. 


rienced entire sanctification on the 15th day of March, 1893, 
about eleven o'clock in the morning. The particular accom- 
paniments of the experience were entirely unexpected. I was 
quietly sitting at home singing selections out of Pentecostal 
Hymns. Suddenly there seemed to be a something sweeping 
into me and inflating my entire being such a sensation as I 
had never experienced before. When this experience came, I 
seemed to be conducted around a large, capacious, well-lighted 
room. As I walked with my invisible conductor and looked 
around, a clear thought was coined in my mind, ' They are not 
here, they are gone.' As soon as the thought was definitely 
formed in my mind, though no word was spoken, the Holy 
Spirit impressed me that I was surveying my own soul. Then, 
for the first time in all my life, did I know that I was cleansed 
from all sin, and filled with the fullness of God." 

Leuba quotes the case of a Mr. Peek, where the lumi- 
nous affection reminds one of the chromatic hallucinations 
produced by the intoxicant cactus buds called mescal by 
the Mexicans : 

" When I went in the morning into the fields to work, the 
glory of God appeared in all his visible creation. I well re- 
member we reaped oats, and how every straw and head of the 
oats seemed, as it were, arrayed in a kind of rainbow glory, or 
to glow, if I may so express it, in the glory of God." 1 

1 These reports of sensorial photism shade off into what are evidently 
only metaphorical accounts of the sense of new spiritual illumination, as, for 
instance, in Brainerd's statement : "As I was walking in a thick grove, un- 
speakable glory seemed to open to the apprehension of my soul. I do not 
mean any external brightness, for I saw no such thing, nor any imagination 
of a body of light in the third heavens, or anything of that nature, but it 
was a new inward apprehension or view that I had of God." 

In a case like this next one from Starbuck's manuscript collection, the 
lighting up of the darkness is probably also metaphorical : 

" One Sunday night, I resolved that when I got home to the ranch where 
I was working, I would offer myself with my faculties and all to God to be 
used only by and for him. ... It was raining and the roads were muddy ; 
but this desire grew so strong that I kneeled down by the side of the road 
and told God all about it, intending then to get up and go on. Such a 
thing as any special answer to my prayer never entered my mind, having 


The most characteristic of all the elements of the con- 
version crisis, and the last one of which I shall speak, is 
the ecstasy of happiness produced. We have already 
heard several accounts of it, but I will add a couple 
more. President Finney's is so vivid that I give it at 
length : 

" All my feelings seemed to rise and flow out ; and the ut- 
terance o my heart was, ' I want to pour my whole soul out to 
God.' The rising of my soul was so great that I rushed into 
the back room of the front office, to pray. There was no fire 
and no light in the room ; nevertheless it appeared to me as if 
it were perfectly light. As I went in and shut the door after 
me, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. 
It did not occur to me then, nor did it for some time afterwards, 
that it was wholly a mental state. On the contrary, it seemed 
to me that I saw him as I would see any other man. He said 
nothing, but looked at me in such a manner as to break me 

been converted by faith, but still being most undoubtedly saved. Well, 
while I was praying, I remember holding out my hands to God and telling 
him they should work for him, my feet walk for him, my tongue speak for 
him, etc., etc., if he would only use me as his instrument and give me a satisfy- 
ing experience when suddenly the darkness of the night seemed lit up 
I felt, realized, knew, that God heard and answered my prayer. Deep hap- 
piness came over me ; I felt I was accepted into the inner circle of God's 
loved ones." 

In the following case also the flash of light is metaphorical : 
" A prayer meeting had been called for at close of evening service. The 
minister supposed me impressed by his discourse (a mistake he was dull). 
He came and, placing his hand upon my shoulder, said : ' Do you not 
want to give your heart to God ? ' I replied in the affirmative. Then said 
he, ' Come to the front seat.' They sang and prayed and talked with me. I 
experienced nothing but unaccountable wretchedness. They declared that 
the reason why I did not ' obtain peace ' was because I was not willing to 
give up all to God. After about two hours the minister said we would go 
home. As usual, on retiring, I prayed. In great distress, I at this time 
simply said, ' Lord, I have done all I can, I leave the whole matter with 
thee.' Immediately, like a flash of light, there came to me a great peace, 
and I arose and went into my parents' bedroom and said, ' I do feel so won- 
derfully happy.' This I regard as the hour of conversion. It was the 
hour in which I became assured of divine acceptance and favor. So far as 
my life was concerned, it made little immediate change." 


right clown at his feet. I have always since regarded this as a 
most remarkable state of mind ; for it seemed to me a reality 
that he stood before me, and I fell down at his feet and poured 
out my soul to him. I wept aloud like a child, and made such 
confessions as I could with my choked utterance. It seemed 
to me that I bathed his feet with my tears ; and yet I had no 
distinct impression that I touched him, that I recollect. I 
must have continued in this state for a good while ; but my 
mind was too much absorbed with the interview to recollect 
anything that I said. But I know, as soon as my mind became 
calm enough to break off from the interview, I returned to the 
front office, and found that the fire that I had made of large 
wood was nearly burned out. But as I turned and was about 
to take a seat by the fire, I received a mighty baptism of the 
Holy Ghost. Without any expectation of it, without ever hav- 
ing the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for 
me, without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing 
mentioned by any person in the world, the Holy Spirit de- 
scended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, 
body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of 
electricity, going through and through me. Indeed, it seemed 
to come in waves and waves of liquid love ; for I could not 
express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath 
of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me, 
like immense wings. 

"No words can express the wonderful love that was shed 
abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love ; and I 
do not know but I should say I literally bellowed out the un- 
utterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over me, 
and over me, and over me, one after the other, until I recollect 
I cried out, ' I shall die if these waves continue to pass over 
me.' I said, ' Lord, I cannot bear any more ; ' yet I had no fear 
of death. 

" How long I continued in this state, with this baptism con- 
tinuing to roll over me and go through me, I do not know. 
But I know it was late in the evening when a member of my 
choir for I was the leader of the choir came into the office 
to see me. He was a member of the church. He found me 


in this state of loud weeping, and said to me, ' Mr. Finney, 
what ails you ? ' I could make him no answer for some time. 
He then said, ' Are you in pain ? ' I gathered myself up as 
best I could, and replied, ' No, but so happy that I cannot 
live.' " 

I just now quoted Billy Bray ; I cannot do better than 
give his own brief account of bis post-conversion feel- 
ings : 

" I can't help praising the Lord. As I go along the street, 
I lift up one foot, and it seems to say ' Glory ' ; and I lift up 
the other, and it seems to say ' Amen ' ; and so they keep up 
like that all the time I am walking." * 

One word, before I close this lecture, on the question 
of the transiency or permanence of these abrupt conver- 
sions. Some of you, I feel sure, knowing* that numerous 

1 I add in a note a few more records : 

" One morning, being in deep distress, fearing every moment I should 
drop into hell, I was constrained to cry in earnest for mercy, and the Lord 
came to my relief, and delivered my soul from the burden and guilt of sin. 
My whole frame was in a tremor from head to foot, and my soul enjoyed 
sweet peace. The pleasure I then felt was indescribable. The happiness 
lasted about three days, during which time I never spoke to any person 
about my feelings." Autobiography of Dan Young, edited by W. P. 
Strickland, New York, 1860. 

" In an instant there rose up in me such a sense of God's taking care 
of those who put their trust in him that for an hour all the world was 
crystalline, the heavens were lucid, and I sprang to my feet and began to 
cry and laugh." H. W. Beecher, quoted by Leuba. 

" My tears of sorrow changed to joy, and I lay there praising God in 
such ecstasy of joy as only the soul who experiences it can realize." 
" I cannot express how I felt. It was as if I had been in a dark dungeon 
and lifted into the light of the sun. I shouted and I sang praise unto him 
who loved me and washed me from my sins. I was forced to retire into a 
secret place, for the tears did flow, and I did not wish my shopmates to see 
me, and yet I could not keep it a secret." "I experienced joy almost 
to weeping." "I felt my face must have shone like that of Moses. I 
had a general feeling of buoyancy. It was the greatest joy it was ever my 
lot to experience." "I wept and laughed alternately. I was as light as 
if walking on air. I felt as if I had gained greater peace and happiness 
than I had ever expected to experience." Starbuck's correspondents. 


backslidings and relapses take place, make of these their 
apperceiving mass for interpreting the whole subject, and 
dismiss it with a pitying smile at so much ' hysterics.' 
Psychologically, as well as religiously, however, this is 
shallow. It misses the point of serious interest, which is 
not so much the duration as the nature and quality of 
these shiftings of character to higher levels. Men lapse 
from every level we need no statistics to tell us that. 
Love is, for instance, well known not to be irrevocable, 
yet, constant or inconstant, it reveals new flights and 
reaches of ideality while it lasts. These revelations form 
its significance to men and women, whatever be its dura- 
tion. So with the conversion experience : that it should 
for even a short time show a human being what the high- 
water mark of his spiritual capacity is, this is what con- 
stitutes its importance, an importance which backslid- 
ing cannot diminish, although persistence might increase 
it. As a matter of fact, all the more striking instances 
of conversion, all those, for instance, which I have quoted, 
have been permanent. The case of which there might 
be most doubt, on account of its suggesting so strongly 
an epileptoid seizure, was the case of M. Ratisbonne. 
Yet I am informed that Ratisbonne's whole future was 
shaped by those few minutes. He gave up his project of 
marriage, became a priest, founded at Jerusalem, where 
he went to dwell, a mission of nuns for the conversion of 
the Jews, showed no tendency to use for egotistic pur- 
poses the notoriety given him by the peculiar circum- 
stances of his conversion, which, for the rest, he could 
seldom refer to without tears, and in short remained 
an exemplary son of the Church until he died, late in the 
80's, if I remember rightly. 

The only statistics I know of, on the subject of the 
duration of conversions, are those collected for Professor 


Starbuck by Miss Johnston. They embrace only a hun- 
dred persons, evangelical church-members, more than 
half being Methodists. According to the statement of 
the subjects themselves, there had been backsliding of 
some sort in nearly all the cases, 93 per cent, of the wo- 
men, 77 per cent, of the men. Discussing the returns 
more minutely, Starbuck finds that only 6 per cent, are 
relapses from the religious faith which the conversion 
confirmed, and that the backsliding complained of is in 
most only a fluctuation in the ardor of sentiment. Only 
six of the hundred cases report a change of faith. Star- 
buck's conclusion is that the effect of conversion is to 
bring with it " a changed attitude towards life, which is 
fairly constant and permanent, although the feelings 
fluctuate. ... In other words, the persons who have 
passed through conversion, having once taken a stand 
for the religious life, tend to feel themselves identified 
with it, no matter how much their religious enthusiasm 
declines." * 

1 Psychology of Religion, pp. 360, 357. 



THE last lecture left us in a state of expectancy. 
What may the practical fruits for life have been, of 
such movingly happy conversions as those we heard of? 
With this question the really important part of our task 
opens, for you remember that we began all this empiri- 
cal inquiry not merely to open a curious chapter in 
the phenomenology of human consciousness, but rather 
to attain a spiritual judgment as to the total value and 
positive meaning of all the religious trouble and happi- 
ness which we have seen. We must, therefore, first 
describe the fruits of the religious life, and then we must 
judge them. This divides our inquiry into two distinct 
parts. Let us without further preamble proceed to the 
descriptive task. 

It ought to be the pleasantest portion of our business 
in these lectures. Some small pieces of it, it is true, 
may be painful, or may show human nature in a pathetic 
light, but it will be mainly pleasant, because the best 
fruits of religious experience are the best things that his- 
tory has to show. They have always been esteemed so ; 
here if anywhere is the genuinely strenuous life ; and to 
call to mind a succession of such examples as I have 
lately had to wander through, though it has been only in 
the reading of them, is to feel encouraged and uplifted 
and washed in better moral air. 

The highest flights of charity, devotion, trust, patience, 
bravery to which the wings of human nature have spread 


themselves have been flown for religious ideals. I can 
do no better than quote, as to this, some remarks which 
Sainte-Beuve in his History of Port-Royal makes on the 
results of conversion or the state of grace. 

" Even from the purely human point of view," Sainte- 
Beuve says, " the phenomenon of grace must still appear 
sufficiently extraordinary, eminent, and rare, both in its 
nature and in its effects, to deserve a closer study. For 
the soul arrives thereby at a certain fixed and invincible 
state, a state which is genuinely heroic, and from out of 
which the greatest deeds which it ever performs are exe- 
cuted. Through all the different forms of communion, 
and all the diversity of the means which help to produce 
this state, whether it be reached by a jubilee, by a gen- 
eral confession, by a solitary prayer and effusion, what- 
ever in short be the place and the occasion, it is easy to 
recognize that it is fundamentally one state in spirit and 
in fruits. Penetrate a little beneath the diversity of cir- 
cumstances, and it becomes evident that in Christians 
of different epochs it is always one and the same modifi- 
cation by which they are affected : there is veritably a 
single fundamental and identical spirit of piety and 
charity, common to those who have received grace ; an 
inner state which before all thing's is one of love and 
humility, of infinite confidence in God, and of severity 
for one's self, accompanied with tenderness for others. 
The fruits peculiar to this condition of the soul have the 
same savor in all, under distant suns and in different 
surroundings, in Saint Teresa of Avila just as in any 
Moravian brother of Herrnhut." * 

Sainte-Beuve has here only the more eminent instances 
of regeneration in mind, and these are of course the 
instructive ones for us also to consider. These devotees 

1 Sainte-Beuve : Port-Royal, vol. i. pp. 95 and 106, abridged. 


have often laid their course so differently from other 
men that, judging them by worldly law, we might be 
tempted to call them monstrous aberrations from the path 
of nature. I begin, therefore, by asking a general psycho- 
logical question as to what the inner conditions are which 
may make one human character differ so extremely from 

I reply at once that where the character, as something 
distinguished from the intellect, is concerned, the causes 
of human diversity lie chiefly in our differing suscepti- 
bilities of emotional excitement, and in the different im- 
pulses and inhibitions which these bring in their train. 
Let me make this more clear. 

Speaking generally, our moral and practical attitude, 
at any given time, is always a resultant of two sets of 
forces within us, impulses pushing us one way and ob- 
structions and inhibitions holding us back. " Yes ! 
yes ! " say the impulses ; " No ! no ! " say the inhibitions. 
Few people who have not expressly reflected on the matter 
realize how constantly this factor of inhibition is upon 
us, how it contains and moulds us by its restrictive pres- 
sure almost as if we were fluids pent within the cavity 
of a jar. The influence is so incessant that it becomes 
subconscious. All of you, for example, sit here with a 
certain constraint at this moment, and entirely without 
express consciousness of the fact, because of the influ- 
ence of the occasion. If left alone in the room, each of 
you would probably involuntarily rearrange himself, and 
make his attitude more ' free and easy.' But proprieties 
and their inhibitions snap like cobwebs if any great emo- 
tional excitement supervenes. I have seen a dandy ap- 
pear in the street with his face covered with shaving- 
lather because a house across the way was on fire ; and 
a woman will run among strangers in her nightgown if 

\y,stv<Mv^s - ovtuo^ **<*' 



it be a question of saving her baby's life or her own. 
Take a self-indulgent woman's life in general. She will 
yield to every inhibition set by her disagreeable sensa- 
tions, lie late in bed, live upon tea or bromides, keep 
indoors from the cold. Every difficulty finds her obe- 
dient to its ' no.' But make a mother of her, and what 
have you? Possessed by maternal excitement, she now 
confronts wakefulness, weariness, and toil without an 
instant of hesitation or a word of complaint. The in- 
hibitive power of pain over her is extinguished wherever 
the baby's interests are at stake. The inconveniences 
which this creature occasions have become, as James Hin- 
ton says, the glowing heart of a great joy, and indeed 
are now the very conditions whereby the joy becomes most 

This is an example of what you have already heard of 
as the ' expulsive power of a higher affection.' But be 
the affection high or low, it makes no difference, so long 
as the excitement it brings be strong enough. In one of 
Henry Drummond's discourses he tells of an inundation 
in India where an eminence with a bungalow upon it 
remained unsubmerged, and became the refuge of a 
number of wild animals and reptiles in addition to the 
human beings who were there. At a certain moment a 
royal Bengal tiger appeared swimming towards it, reached 
it, and lay panting like a dog upon the ground in the 
midst of the people, still possessed by such an agony of 
terror that one of the Englishmen could calmly step up 
with a rifle and blow out its brains. The tiger's habitual 
ferocity was temporarily quelled by the emotion of fear, 
which became sovereign, and formed a new centre for his 

Sometimes no emotional state is sovereign, but many 
contrary ones are mixed together. In that case one hears 


both ( yeses ' and ' noes/ and the ' will ' is called on then 
to solve the conflict. Take a soldier, for example, with his 
dread of cowardice impelling him to advance, his fears im- 
pelling him to run, and his propensities to imitation push- 
ing; him towards various courses if his comrades offer 
various examples. His person becomes the seat of a mass 
of interferences ; and he may for a time simply waver, 
because no one emotion prevails. There is a pitch of 
intensity, though, which, if any emotion reach it, en- 
thrones that one as alone effective and sweeps its antag- 
onists and all their inhibitions away. The fury of his 
comrades' charge, once entered on, will give this pitch of 
courage to the soldier ; the panic of their rout will give 
this pitch of fear. In these sovereign excitements, things 
ordinarily impossible grow natural because the inhibitions 
are annulled. Their 'no! no ! ' not only is not heard, it 
does not exist. Obstacles are then like tissue-paper hoops 
to the circus rider no impediment ; the flood is higher 
than the dam they make. " Lass sie betteln gehn wenn 
sie hungrig sincl ! " cries the grenadier, frantic over his 
Emperor's capture, when his wife and babes are suggested ; 
and men pent into a burning theatre have been known 
to cut their way through the crowd with knives. 1 

1 " ' Love would not be love,' says Bourget, ' unless it could carry one to 
crime.' And so one may say that no passion would be a veritable passion 
unless it could carry one to crime." (Sighele : Psychologie des Sectes, 
p. 136.) In other words, great passions annul the ordinary inhibitions set by 
' conscience.' And conversely, of all the criminal human beings, the false, 
cowardly, sensual, or cruel persons who actually live, there is perhaps not 
one whose criminal impulse may not be at some moment overpowered by the 
presence of some other emotion to which his character is also potentially 
liable, provided that other emotion be only made intense enough. Fear is 
usually the most available emotion for this result in this particular class of 
persons. It stands for conscience, and may here be classed appropriately as 
a ' higher affection.' If we are soon to die, or if we believe a day of judg- 
ment to be near at hand, how quickly do we put our moral house in order 
we do not see how sin can evermore exert temptation over us ! Old- 

V\V\$CV \A^*. *V 


One mode of emotional excitability is exceedingly im- 
portant in the composition of the energetic character, 
from its peculiarly destructive power over inhibitions. I 
mean what in its lower form is mere irascibility, suscepti- 
bility to wrath, the fighting temper ; and what in subtler 
ways manifests itself as impatience, grimness, earnest- 
ness, severity of character. Earnestness means willing- 
ness to live with energy, though energy bring pain. The 
pain may be pain to other people or pain to one's self 
it makes little difference ; for when the strenuous mood 
is on one, the aim is to break something, no matter whose 
or what. Nothing annihilates an inhibition as irresist- 
ibly as anger does it ; for, as Moltke says of war, de- 
struction pure and simple is its essence. This is what 
makes it so invaluable an ally of every other passion. 
The sweetest delights are trampled on with a ferocious 
pleasure the moment they offer themselves as checks to 
a cause by which our higher indignations are elicited. 
It costs, then, nothing to drop friendships, to renounce 
long-rooted privileges and possessions, to break with 
social ties. Rather do we take a stern joy in the astrin- 
gency and desolation ; and what is called weakness of 
character seems in most cases to consist in the inaptitude 
for these sacrificial moods, of which one's own inferior 
self and its pet softnesses must often be the targets and 
the victims. 1 

fashioned hell-fire Christianity well knew how to extract from fear its full 
equivalent in the way of fruits for repentance, and its full conversion value. 
1 Example : Benjamin Constant was often marveled at as an extraordi- 
nary instance of superior intelligence with inferior character. He writes 
(Journal, Paris, 1895, p. 56), " I am tossed and dragged ahout hy my miser- 
ahle weakness. Never was anything so ridiculous as my indecision. Now 
marriage, now solitude ; now Germany, now France, hesitation upon hesita- 
tion, and all because at bottom I am unable to give up anything." He can't 
get mad ' at any of his alternatives ; and the career of a man beset by 
such an all-round amiability is hopeless. 


So far I have spoken of temporary alterations produced 
by shifting excitements in the same person. But the rela- 
tively fixed differences of character of different persons 
are explained in a precisely similar way. In a man with 
a liability to a special sort of emotion, whole ranges of 
inhibition habitually vanish, which in other men remain 
effective, and other sorts of inhibition take their place. 
When a person has an inborn genius for certain emo- 
tions, his life differs strangely from that of ordinary peo- 
ple, for none of their usual deterrents check him. Your 
mere aspirant to a type of character, on the contrary, 
only shows, when your natural lover, fighter, or reformer, 
with whom the passion is a gift of nature, comes along, 
the hopeless inferiority of voluntary to instinctive action. 
He has deliberately to overcome his inhibitions ; the 
genius with the inborn passion seems not to feel them at 
all ; he is free of all that inner friction and nervous 
waste. To a Fox, a Garibaldi, a General Booth, a John 
Brown, a Louise Michel, a Bradlaugh, the obstacles om- 
nipotent over those around them are as if non-existent. 
Could the rest of us so disregard them, there might be 
many such heroes, for many have the wish to live for 
similar ideals, and only the adequate degree of inhibition- 
quenching fury is lacking. 1 

1 The great thing which the higher excitabilities give is courage ; and 
the addition or subtraction of a certain amount of this quality makes a 
different man, a different life. Various excitements let the courage loose. 
Trustful hope will do it ; inspiring example will do it ; love will do it ; 
wrath will do it. In some people it is natively so high that the mere touch 
of danger does it, though danger is for most men the great inhibitor of 
action. ' Love of adventure ' becomes in such persons a ruling passion. 
" I believe," says General Skobeleff, " that my bravery is simply the pas- 
sion and at the same time the contempt of danger. The risk of life fills me 
with an exaggerated rapture. The fewer there are to share it, the more I 
like it. The participation of my body in the event is required to furnish 
me an adequate excitement. Everything intellectual appears to me to be 
reflex ; but a meeting of man to man, a duel, a danger into which I can 

1Hv\V\vnO Y5 UnV* 



The difference between willing and merely wishing, 
between having ideals that are creative and ideals that 
are but pinings and regrets, thus depends solely either 
on the amount of steam-pressure chronically driving the 
character in the ideal direction, or on the amount of 
ideal excitement transiently acquired. Given a certain 
amount of love, indignation, generosity, magnanimity, 
admiration, loyalty, or enthusiasm of self -surrender, the 
result is always the same. That whole raft of cowardly 
obstructions, which in tame persons and dull moods are 
sovereign impediments to action, sinks away at once. 
Our conventionality, 1 our shyness, laziness, and stingi- 
ness, our demands for precedent and permission, for guar- 
antee and surety, our small suspicions, timidities, despairs, 
where are they now? Severed like cobwebs, broken like 
bubbles in the sun 

" Wo sind die Sorge nun und Noth 
Die mich noch gestern wollt' erschaffen ? 
Ich scham' mich dess' im Morgenroth." 

The flood we are borne on rolls them so lightly under 
that their very contact is unfelt. Set free of them, we 
float and soar and sing. This auroral openness and 

throw myself headforemost, attracts me, moves me, intoxicates me. I am 
crazy for it, I love it, I adore it. I run after danger as one runs after 
women ; I wish it never to stop. Were it always the same, it would 
always bring me a new pleasure. When I throw myself into an adventure 
in which I hope to find it, my heart palpitates with the uncertainty ; I 
could wish at once to have it appear and yet to delay. A sort of painful 
and delicious shiver shakes me ; my entire nature runs to meet the peril 
with an impetus that my will would in vain try to resist." (Juliette Adam : 
Le General Skobeleff, Nouvelle Revue, 1886, abridged.) Skobeleff seems 
to have been a cruel egoist ; but the disinterested Garibaldi, if one may 
judge by his ' Memorie,' lived in an unflagging emotion of similar danger- 
seeking excitement. 

1 See the case on p. 70, above, where the writer describes his experiences 
of communion with the Divine as consisting " merely in the temporary oblit- 
eration of the conventionalities which usually cover my life." 


uplift gives to all creative ideal levels a bright and carol- 
ing quality, which is nowhere more marked than where 
the controlling emotion is religious. " The true monk," 
writes an Italian mystic, " takes nothing with him but 
his lyre." 

We may now turn from these psychological general- 
ities to those fruits of the religious state which form the 
special subject of our present lecture. The man who 
lives in his religious centre of personal energy, and is 
actuated by spiritual enthusiasms, differs from his previ- 
ous carnal self in perfectly definite ways. The new ardor 
which burns in his breast consumes in its glow the lower 
' noes ' which formerly beset him, and keeps him immune 
against infection from the entire groveling portion of 
his nature. Magnanimities once impossible are now easy ; 
paltry conventionalities and mean incentives once tyran- 
nical hold no sway. The stone wall inside of him has 
fallen, the hardness in his heart has broken down. The 
rest of us can, I think, imagine this by recalling our 
state of feeling in those temporary ' melting moods ' 
into which either the trials of real life, or the theatre, 
or a novel sometimes throw us. Especially if we weep ! 
For it is then as if our tears broke through an inveterate 
inner dam, and let all sorts of ancient peccancies and 
moral stagnancies drain away, leaving us now washed 
and soft of heart and open to every nobler leading. 
With most of us the customary hardness quickly returns, 
but not so with saintly persons. Many saints, even as 
energetic ones as Teresa and Loyola, have possessed what 
the church traditionally reveres as a special grace, the 
so-called gift of tears. In these persons the melting 
mood seems to have held almost uninterrupted control. 
And as it is with tears and melting moods, so it is with 


other exalted affections. Their reign may come by 
gradual growth or by a crisis ; but in either case it may 
have ' come to stay.' 

At the end of the last lecture we saw this permanence 
to be true of the general paramountcy of the higher 
insight, even though in the ebbs of emotional excitement 
meaner motives might temporarily prevail and backsliding 
might occur. But that lower temptations may remain 
completely annulled, apart from transient emotion and 
as if by alteration of the man's habitual nature, is also 
proved by documentary evidence in certain cases. Be- 
fore embarking on the general natural history of the 
regenerate character, let me convince you of this curi- 
ous fact by one or two examples. The most numerous 
are those of reformed drunkards. You recollect the case 
of Mr. Hadley in the last lecture ; the Jerry McAuley 
Water Street Mission abounds in similar instances. 1 You 
also remember the graduate of Oxford, converted at three 
in the afternoon, and getting drunk in the hay-field the 
next day, but after that permanently cured of his appe- 
tite. " From that hour drink has had no terrors for me : 
I never touch it, never want it. The same thing occurred 
with my pipe, . . . the desire for it went at once and has 
never returned. So with every known sin, the deliver- 
ance in each case being permanent and complete. I have 
had no temptations since conversion." 

Here is an analogous case from Starbuck's manuscript 
collection : 

" I went into the old Adelphi Theatre, where there was a 
Holiness meeting, . . . and I began saying, ' Lord, Lord, I 
must have this blessing.' Then what was to me an audible 
voice said : ' Are you willing to give up everything to the 

1 Above, p. 201. " The only radical remedy I know for dipsomania is 
religiomauia," is a saying I have heard quoted from some medical man. 


Lord ? ' and question after question kept coming up, to all of 
which I said : ' Yes, Lord ; yes, Lord ! ' until this came : ' Why- 
do you not accept it now ? ' and I said : ' I do, Lord.' I felt no 
particular joy, only a trust. Just then the meeting- closed, and, 
as I went out on the street, I met a gentleman smoking a fine 
cigar, and a cloud of smoke came into my face, and I took a 
long, deep breath of it, and praise the Lord, all my appetite for 
it was gone. Then as I walked along the street, passing saloons 
where the fumes of liquor came out, I found that all my taste 
and longing for that accursed stuff was gone. Glory to God ! 
. . . [But] for ten or eleven long years [after that] I was in 
the wilderness with its ups and downs. My appetite for liquor 
never came back." 

The classic case of Colonel Gardiner is that of a man 
cured of sexual temptation in a single hour. To Mr. 
Spears the colonel said, " I was effectually cured of all 
inclination to that sin I was so strongly addicted to that 
I thought nothing but shooting me through the head 
could have cured me of it ; and all desire and inclination 
to it was removed, as entirely as if I had been a suck- 
ing child ; nor did the temptation return to this day." 
Mr. Webster's words on the same subject are these : 
" One thing I have heard the colonel frequently say, that 
he was much addicted to impurity before his acquaint- 
ance with religion ; but that, so soon as he was enlight- 
ened from above, he felt the power of the Holy Ghost 
changing his nature so wonderfully that his sanctifica- 
tion in this respect seemed more remarkable than in any 
other." l 

Such rapid abolition of ancient impulses and propensi- 
ties reminds us so strongly of what has been observed as 
the result of hypnotic suggestion that it is difficult not 
to believe that subliminal influences play the decisive 

1 Doddridge's Life of Colonel James Gardiner, London Religious Tract 
Society, pp. 23-32. 


part in these abrupt changes of heart, just as they do in 
hypnotism. 1 Suggestive therapeutics abound in records of 
cure, after a few sittings, of inveterate bad habits with 
which the patient, left to ordinary moral and physical in- 
fluences, had struggled in vain. Both drunkenness and 
sexual vice have been cured in this way, action through 
the subliminal seeming thus in many individuals to have 
the prerogative of inducing relatively stable change. 
If the grace of God miraculously operates, it probably 
operates through the subliminal door, then. But just 
how anything operates in this region is still unexplained, 
and we shall do well now to say good-by to the process of 
transformation altogether, leaving it, if you like, a 
good deal of a psychological or theological mystery, 
and to turn our attention to the fruits of the religious 
condition, no matter in what way they may have been 
produced. 2 

1 Here, for example, is a case, from Starbuck's book, in whicb a ' sensory 
automatism ' brought about quickly what prayers and resolves had been 
unable to effect. The subject is a woman. She writes : 

" When I was about forty I tried to quit smoking, but the desire was on 
me, and had me in its power. I cried and prayed and promised God to 
quit, but could not. I had smoked for fifteen years. When I was fifty- 
three, as I sat by the fire one day smoking, a voice came to me. I did not 
hear it with my ears, but more as a dream or sort of double think. It 
said, ' Louisa, lay down smoking.' At once I replied, ' Will you take the 
desire away ? ' But it only kept saying : ' Louisa, lay down smoking.' 
Then I got up, laid my pipe on the mantel-shelf, and never smoked again 
or had any desire to. The desire was gone as though I had never known 
it or touched tobacco. The sight of others smoking and the smell of smoke 
never gave me the least wish to touch it again." The Psychology of 
Religion, p. 142. 

2 Professor Starbuck expresses the radical destruction of old influences 
physiologically, as a cutting off of the connection between higher and lower 
cerebral centres. " This condition," he says, " in which the association- 
centres connected with the spiritual life are cut off from the lower, is often 
reflected in the way correspondents describe their experiences. . . . For 
example : ' Temptations from without still assail me, but there is nothing 
within to respond to them.' The ego [here] is wholly identified with the 


The collective name for the ripe fruits of religion in 
a character is Saintliness. 1 The saintly character is the 
character for which spiritual emotions are the habitual 
centre of the personal energy ; and there is a certain com- 
posite photograph of universal saintliness, the same in all 
religions, of which the features can easily be traced. 2 

higher centres, whose quality of feeling is that of withinness. Another 
of the respondents says : ' Since then, although Satan tempts me, there 
is as it were a wall of brass around me, so that his darts cannot touch 
me.' " Unquestionably, functional exclusions of this sort must occur in 
the cerebral organ. But on the side accessible to introspection, their causal 
condition is nothing but the degree of spiritual excitement, getting at last 
so high and strong as to be sovereign ; and it must be frankly confessed 
that we do not know just why or how such sovereignty comes about in one 
person and not in another. We can only give our imagination a certain 
delusive help by mechanical analogies. 

If we shoidd conceive, for example, that the human mind, with its differ- 
ent possibilities of equilibrium, might be like a many-sided solid with dif- 
ferent surfaces on which it could lie flat, we might liken mental revolutions 
to the spatial revolutions of such a body. As it is pried up, say by a lever, 
from a position in which it lies on surface A, for instance, it will linger for 
a time unstably halfway up, and if the lever cease to urge it, it will tumble 
back or ' relapse ' under the continued pull of gravity. But if at last it 
rotate far enough for its centre of gravity to pass beyond surface A alto- 
gether, the body will fall over, on surface B, say, and abide there perma- 
nently. The pulls of gravity towards A have vanished, and may now be 
disregarded. The polyhedron has become immune against farther attrac- 
tion from their direction. 

In this figure of speech the lever may correspond to the emotional influ- 
ences making for a new life, and the initial pull of gravity to the ancient 
drawbacks and inhibitions. So long as the emotional influence fails to reach 
a certain pitch of efficacy, the changes it produces are unstable, and the 
man relapses into his original attitude. But when a certain intensity is 
attained by the new emotion, a critical point is passed, and there then en- 
sues an irreversible revolution, equivalent to the production of a new nature. 

1 I use this word in spite of a certain flavor of ' sanctimoniousness ' 
which sometimes clings to it, because no other word suggests as well the 
exact combination of affections which the text goes on to describe. 

2 " It will be found," says Dr. W. R. Inge (in his lectures on Christian 
Mysticism, London, 1899, p. 326), "that men of preeminent saintliness agree 
very closely in what they tell us. They tell us that they have arrived at an 
unshakable conviction, not based on inference but on immediate experi- 
ence, that God is a spirit with whom the human spirit can hold intercourse ; 


They are these : 

1. A feeling of being in a wider life than that of this 
world's selfish little interests ; and a conviction, not merely 
intellectual, but as it were sensible, of the existence of an 
Ideal Power. In Christian saintliness this power is always 
personified as God ; but abstract moral ideals, civic or 
patriotic Utopias, or inner visions of holiness or right may 
also be felt as the true lords and enlargers of our life, in 
ways which I described in the lecture on the Reality of 
the Unseen. 1 

that in him meet all that they can imagine of goodness, truth, and beauty ; 
that they can see his footprints everywhere in nature, and feel his pre- 
sence within them as the very life of their life, so that in proportion as they 
come to themselves they come to him. They tell us what separates us from 
him and from happiness is, first, self-seeking in all its forms ; and, sec- 
ondly, sensuality in all its forms ; that these are the ways of darkness and 
death, which hide from us the face of God ; while the path of the just is 
like a shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day." 

1 The 'enthusiasm of humanity' may lead to a life which coalesces in 
many respects with that of Christian saintliness. Take the following rules 
proposed to members of the Union pour l'Action morale, in the Bulletin de 
l'Union, April 1-15, 1894. See, also, Revue Bleue, August 13, 1892. 

" We would make known in our own persons the usefulness of rule, of 
discipline, of resignation and renunciation ; we would teach the necessary 
perpetuity of suffering, and explain the creative part which it plays. We 
would wage war upon false optimism ; on the base hope of happiness coming 
to us ready made ; on the notion of a salvation by knowledge alone, or by 
material civilization alone, vain symbol as this is of civilization, precarious 
external arrangement, ill-fitted to replace the intimate union and consent of 
souls. We would wage war also on bad morals, whether in public or in pri- 
vate life ; on luxury, fastidiousness, and over-refinement ; on all that tends 
to increase the painful, immoral, and anti-social multiplication of our wants ; 
on all that excites envy and dislike in the soul of the common people, and 
confirms the notion that the chief end of life is freedom to enjoy. We 
would preach by our example the respect of superiors and equals, the respect 
of all men ; affectionate simplicity in our relations with inferiors and insig- 
nificant persons ; indulgence where our own claims only are concerned, but 
firmness in our demands where they relate to duties towards others or to- 
wards the public. 

" For the common people are what we help them to become ; their vices 
are our vices, gazed upon, envied, and imitated ; and if they come back with 
all their weight upon us, it is but just. 


2. A sense of the friendly continuity of the ideal 
power Avith our own life, and a willing self-surrender to 
its control. 

3. An immense elation and freedom, as the outlines of 
the confining; selfhood melt down. 

4. A shifting of the emotional centre towards loving 
and harmonious affections, towards ' yes, yes,' and away 
from l no,' where the claims of the non-ego are concerned. 

These fundamental inner conditions have character- 
istic practical consequences, as follows : 

a. Asceticism. The self-surrender may become so 
passionate as to turn into self-immolation. It may then 
so overrule the ordinary inhibitions of the flesh that the 
saint finds positive pleasure in sacrifice and asceticism, 
measuring and expressing as they do the degree of his 
loyalty to the higher power. 

b. Strength of Soul. The sense of enlargement of 
life may be so uplifting that personal motives and inhibi- 
tions, commonly omnipotent, become too insignificant for 
notice, and new reaches of patience and fortitude open 
out. Fears and anxieties go, and blissful equanimity 
takes their place. Come heaven, come hell, it makes no 
difference now ! 

" We forbid ourselves all seeking after popularity, all ambition to appear 
important. We pledge ourselves to abstain from falsehood, in all its de- 
grees. We promise not to create or encourage illusions as to what is pos- 
sible, by what we say or write. We promise to one another active sincerity, 
which strives to see truth .clearly, and which never fears to declare what it 

" We promise deliberate resistance to the tidal waves of fashion, to the 
' booms ' and panics of the public mind, to all the forms of weakness and of 

" We forbid ourselves the use of sarcasm. Of serious things we will speak 
seriously and uusmilingly, without banter and without the appearance of 
banter ; and even so of all things, for there are serious ways of being light 
of heart. 

" We will put ourselves forward always for what we are, simply and with- 
out false humility, as well as without pedantry, affectation, or pride." 


c. Purity. The shifting of the emotional centre 
brings with it, first, increase of purity. The sensitive- 
ness to spiritual discords is enhanced, and the cleansing 
of existence from brutal and sensual elements becomes 
imperative. Occasions of contact with such elements are 
avoided : the saintly life must deepen its spiritual con- 
sistency and keep unspotted from the world. In some 
temperaments this need of purity of spirit takes an ascetic 
turn, and weaknesses of the flesh are treated with relent- 
less severity. 

d. Charity. The shifting of the emotional centre 
brings, secondly, increase of charity, tenderness for fel- 
low-creatures. The ordinary motives to antipathy, which 
usually set such close bounds to tenderness among human 
beings, are inhibited. The saint loves his enemies, and 
treats loathsome beggars as his brothers. 

I now have to give some concrete illustrations of these 
fruits of the spiritual tree. The only difficulty is to 
choose, for they are so abundant. 

Since the sense of Presence of a higher and friendly 
Power seems to be the fundamental feature in the spir- 
itual life, I will begin with that. 

In our narratives of conversion we saw how the w r orld 
might look shining and transfigured to the convert, 1 and, 
apart from anything acutely religious, we all have mo- 
ments when the universal life seems to wrap us round 
with friendliness. In youth and health, in summer, in 
the woods or on the mountains, there come days when the 
weather seems all whispering with peace, hours when the 
goodness and beauty of existence enfold us like a dry 
warm climate, or chime through us as if our inner ears 
were subtly ringing with the world's security. Thoreau 
writes : 

1 Above, pp. 248 ff. 

Unsww^ \.*l\*.^\o V iv 


" Once, a few weeks after I came to the woods, for an hour I 
doubted whether the near neighborhood of man was not essen- 
tial to a serene and healthy life. To be alone was somewhat 
unpleasant. But, in the midst of a gentle rain, while these 
thoughts prevailed, I was suddenly sensible of such sweet and 
beneficent society in Nature, in the very pattering of the drops, 
and in every sight and sound around my house, an infinite and 
unaccountable friendliness all at once, like an atmosphere, sus- 
taining me, as made the fancied advantages of human neigh- 
borhood insignificant, and I have never thought of them since. 
Every little pine-needle expanded and swelled with sympathy 
and befriended me. I was so distinctly made aware of the 
presence of something kindred to me, that I thought no place 
could ever be strange to me again." 1 

In the Christian consciousness this sense of the en- 
veloping friendliness becomes most personal and definite. 
" The compensation," writes a German author, " for the 
loss of that sense of personal independence which man 
so unwillingly gives up, is the disappearance of all fear 
from one's life, the quite indescribable and inexplicable 
feeling of an inner security, which one can only experi- 
ence, but which, once it has been experienced, one can 
never forget." 2 

I find an excellent description of this state of mind in 
a sermon by Mr. Voysey : 

" It is the experience of myriads of trustful souls, that this 
sense of God's unfailing presence with them in their going out 
and in their coming in, and by night and day, is a source of 
absolute repose and confident calmness. It drives away all fear 
of what may befall them. That nearness of God is a constant 
security against terror and anxiety. It is not that they are at 
all assured of physical safety, or deem themselves protected by 
a love which is denied to others, but that they are in a state of 
mind equally ready to be safe or to meet with injury. If injury 

1 H. Thoreau : Walden, Riverside edition, p. 206, abridged. 

2 C. H. Hilty : Gliick, vol. i. p. 85. 


befall them, they will be content to bear it because the Lord is 
their keeper, and nothing - can befall them without his will. If 
it be his will, then injury is for them a blessing and no calam- 
ity at all. Thus and thus only is the trustful man protected 
and shielded from harm. And I for one by no means a thick- 
skinned or hard-nerved man am absolutely satisfied with this 
arrangement, and do not wish for any other kind of immunity 
from danger and catastrophe. Quite as sensitive to pain as the 
most highly strung oi'ganism, I yet feel that the worst of it is 
conquered, and the sting taken out of it altogether, by the 
thought that God is our loving and sleepless keeper, and that 
nothing can hurt us without his will." 1 

More excited expressions of this condition are abun- 
dant- in religious literature. I could easily weary you with 
their monotony. Here is an account from Mrs. Jonathan 
Edwards : 

" Last night," Mrs. Edwards writes, " was the sweetest night 
I ever had in my life. I never before, for so long a time 
together, enjoyed so much of the light and rest and sweetness 
of heaven in my soul, but without the least agitation of body 
during the whole time. Part of the night I lay awake, some- 
times asleep, and sometimes between sleeping and waking. But 
all night I continued in a constant, clear, and lively sense of 
the heavenly sweetness of Christ's excellent love, of his near- 
ness to me, and of my dearness to him ; with an inexpressibly 
sweet calmness of soul in an entire rest in him. I seemed to 
myself to perceive a glow of divine love come down from the 
heart of Christ in heaven into my heart in a constant stream, 
like a stream or pencil of sweet light. At the same time my 
heart and soul all flowed out in love to Christ, so that there 
seemed to be a constant flowing and reflowing of heavenly love, 
and I appeared to myself to float or swim, in these bright, sweet 
beams, like the motes swimming in the beams of the sun, or the 
streams of his light which come in at the window. I think that 
what I felt each minute was worth more than all the outward 
comfort and pleasure which I had enjoyed in my whole life put 

1 The Mystery of Pain and Death, London, 1892, p. 258. 


together. It was pleasure, without the least sting, or any inter- 
ruption. It was a sweetness, which my soul was lost in ; it 
seemed to be all that my feeble frame could sustain. There was 
but little difference, whether I was asleep or awake, but if there 
was any difference, the sweetness was greatest while I was 
asleep. 1 As I awoke early the next morning, it seemed to me 
that I had entirely done with myself. I felt that the opinions 
of the world concerning me were nothing, and that I had no 
more to do with any outward interest of my own than with that 
of a person whom I never saw. The glory of God seemed to 
swallow up every wish and desire of my heart. . . . After retir- 
ing to rest and sleeping a little while, I awoke, and was led to 
reflect on God's mercy to me, in giving me, for many years, a 
willingness to die ; and after that, in making me willing to 
live, that I might do and suffer whatever he called me to here. 
I also thought how God had graciously given me an entire 
resignation to his will, with respect to the kind and manner of 
death that I should die ; having been made willing to die on 
the rack, or at the stake, and if it were God's will, to die in 
darkness. But now it occurred to me, I used to think of living 
no longer than to the ordinary age of man. Upon this I was 
led to ask myself, whether I was not willing to be kept out of 
heaven even longer ; and my whole heart seemed immediately 
to reply : Yes, a thousand years, and a thousand in horror, if 
it be most for the honor of God, the torment of my body being 
so great, awful, and overwhelming that none could bear to live 
in the country where the spectacle was seen, and the torment of 
my mind being vastly greater. And it seemed to me that I 
found a perfect willingness, quietness, and alacrity of soul in 

1 Compare Madame Guyon : " It was my practice to arise at midnight for 
purposes of devotion. ... It seemed to me that God came at the precise 
time and woke me from sleep in order that I might enjoy him. When I 
was out of health or greatly fatigued, he did not awake me, but at such 
times I felt, even in my sleep, a singular possession of God. He loved me 
so much that he seemed to pervade my being, at a time when I could be 
only imperfectly conscious of his presence. My sleep is sometimes broken, 
a sort of half sleep ; but my soul seems to be awake enough to know 
God, when it is hardly capable of knowing anything else." T. C. Upham : 
The Life and Religious Experiences of Madame de la Mothe Guyon, New 
York, 1877, vol. i. p. 260. 


consenting that it should be so, if it were most for the glory of 
God, so that there was no hesitation, doubt, or darkness in my 
mind. The glory of God seemed to overcome me and swal- 
low me up, and every conceivable suffering, and everything 
that was terrible to my nature, seemed to shrink to nothing 
before it. This resignation continued in its clearness and 
brightness the rest of the night, and all the next day, and the 
night following, and on Monday in the forenoon, without inter- 
ruption or abatement." x 

The annals of Catholic saintsliip abound in records as 
ecstatic or more ecstatic than this. " Often the assaults 
of the divine love," it is said of the Sister Seraphique de 
la Martiniere, " reduced her almost to the point of death. 
She used tenderly to complain of this to God. ' I cannot 
support it/ she used to say. ' Bear gently with my weak- 
ness, or I shall expire under the violence of your love. 

5 55 2 

Let me pass next to the Charity and Brotherly Love 
which are a usual fruit of saintliness, and have always 
been reckoned essential theological virtues, however lim- 
ited may have been the kinds of service which the par- 
ticular theology enjoined. Brotherly love would follow 
logically from the assurance of God's friendly presence, 
the notion of our brotherhood as men being an immediate 
inference from that of God's fatherhood of us all. When 
Christ utters the precepts : " Love your enemies, bless 
them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and 
pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute 
you," he gives for a reason : " That ye may be the chil- 
dren of your Father which is in heaven : for he maketh his 
sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain 
on the just and on the unjust." One might therefore 

1 I have considerably abridged the words of the original, which is given 
in Edwards's Narrative of the Revival in New England. 

2 Bougaud : Hist, de la Bienheureuse Marguerite Marie, 1894, p. 125. 


be tempted to explain both the humility as to one's self 
and the charity towards others which characterize spir- 
itual excitement, as results of the all-leveling character of 
theistic belief. But these affections are certainly not mere 
derivatives of theism. We find them in Stoicism, in Hin- 
duism, and in Buddhism in the highest possible degree. 
They harmonize with paternal theism beautifully ; but 
they harmonize with all reflection whatever upon the de- 
pendence of mankind on general causes ; and we must, I 
think, consider them not subordinate but coordinate parts 
of that great complex excitement in the study of which 
we are engaged. Religious rapture, moral enthusiasm, 
ontological wonder, cosmic emotion, are all unifying states 
of mind, in which the sand and grit of the selfhood in- 
cline to disappear, and tenderness to rule. The best thing 
is to describe the condition integrally as a characteristic 
affection to which our nature is liable, a region in which 
we find ourselves at home, a sea in which we swim ; but 
not to pretend to explain its parts by deriving them too 
cleverly from one another. Like love or fear, the faith- 
state is a natural psychic complex, and carries charity 
with it by organic consequence. Jubilation is an expan- 
sive affection, and all expansive affections are self-forget- 
ful and kindly so long as they endure. 

We find this the case even when they are pathological 
in origin. In his instructive work, la Tristesse et la Joie, 1 
M. Georges Dumas compares together the melancholy and 
the joyous phase of circular insanity, and shows that, 
while selfishness characterizes the one, the other is marked 
by altruistic impulses. No human being so stingy and 
useless as was Marie in her melancholy period ! But the 
moment the happy period begins, " sympathy and kind- 
ness become her characteristic sentiments. She disjDlays 

1 Paris, 1900. 


a universal goodwill, not only of intention, but in act. 
. . . She becomes solicitous of the health of other pa- 
tients, interested in getting them out, desirous to procure 
wool to knit socks for some of them. Never since she 
has been under my observation have I heard her in her 
joyous period utter any but charitable opinions." 1 And 
later, Dr. Dumas says of all such joyous conditions that 
" unselfish sentiments and tender emotions are the only 
affective states to be found in them. The subject's mind 
is closed against envy, hatred, and vindictiveness, and 
wholly transformed into benevolence, indulgence, and 

There is thus an organic affinity between joyousness 
and tenderness, and their companionship in the saintly 
life need in no way occasion surprise. Along with the 
happiness, this increase of tenderness is often noted in 
narratives of conversion. " I began to work for others" ; 

"I had more tender feeling for my family and friends " ; 

"I spoke at once to a person with whom I had been 
angry " ; "I felt for every one, and loved my friends 
better " ; "I felt every one to be my friend " ; these 
are so many expressions from the records collected by 
Professor Starbuck. 3 

" When," says Mrs. Edwards, continuing the narrative from 
which I made quotation a moment ago, " I arose on the morn- 
ing of the Sabbath, I felt a love to all mankind, wholly peculiar 
in its strength and sweetness, far beyond all that I had ever 
felt before. The power of that love seemed inexpressible. I 
thought, if I were surrounded by enemies, who were venting 
their malice and cruelty upon me, in tormenting me, it would 
still be impossible that I should cherish any feelings towards 
them but those of love, and pity, and ardent desires for their 
happiness. I never before felt so far from a disposition to judge 
and censure others, as I did that morning. I realized also, in 

1 Page 130. 2 Page 167. 3 Op. cit., p. 127. 


an unusual and very lively manner, how great a part of Chris- 
tianity lies in the performance of our social and relative duties 
to one another. The same joyful sense continued throughout 
the day a sweet love to God and all mankind." 

Whatever be the explanation of the charity, it may 
efface all usual human barriers. 1 

Here, for instance, is an example of Christian non-resist- 
ance from Richard Weaver's autobiography. Weaver was 
a collier, a semi-professional pugilist in his younger days, 
who became a much beloved evangelist. Fighting, after 
drinking, seems to have been the sin to which he origi- 
nally felt his flesh most perversely inclined. After his 
first conversion he had a backsliding, which consisted in 
pounding a man who had insulted a girl. Feeling that, 
having once fallen, he might as well be hanged for a 
sheep as for a lamb, he got drunk and went and broke 
the jaw of another man who had lately challenged him 
to fight and taunted him with cowardice for refusing as 
a Christian man ; I mention these incidents to show 
how genuine a change of heart is implied in the later con- 
duct which he describes as follows : 

1 The barrier between men and animals also. We read of Towianski, 
an eminent Polish patriot and mystic, that " one day one of his friends 
met him in the rain, caressing a big dog which was jumping upon him 
and covering him horribly with mud. On being asked why he permitted 
the animal thus to dirty his clothes, Towianski replied : ' This dog, whom 
I am now meeting for the first time, has shown a great fellow-feeling for 
me, and a great joy in my recognition and acceptance of his greetings. 
Were I to drive him off, I should wound his feelings and do him a moral 
injury. It would be an offense not only to him, but to all the spirits of the 
other world who are on the same level with him. The damage which he 
does to my coat is as nothing in comparison with the wrong which I should 
inflict upon him, in case I were to remain indifferent to the manifestations 
of his friendship. We ought,' he added, ' both to lighten the condition of 
animals, whenever we can, and at the same time to facilitate in ourselves 
that union of the world of all spirits, which the sacrifice of Christ has made 
possible.'" Andre" Towianski, Traduction de l'ltalien, Turin, 1897 (pri- 
vately printed). I owe my knowledge of this book and of Towianski to my 
friend Professor W. Lutoslawski, author of 'Plato's Logic' 


" I went down the drift and found the boy crying because 
a fellow-workman was trying to take the wagon from him by 
force. I said to him : 

" ' Tom, you must n't take that wagon.' 

" He swore at me, and called me a Methodist devil. I told 
him that God did not tell me to let him rob me. He cursed 
again, and said he would push the wagon over me. 

" ' Well,' I said, let us see whether the devil and thee are 
stronger than the Lord and me.' 

" And the Lord and I proving stronger than the devil and 
he, he had to get out of the way, or the wagon would have 
gone over him. So I gave the wagon to the boy. Then said 
Tom : 

" ' I 've a good mind to smack thee on the face.' 

" ' Well,' I said, ' if that will do thee any good, thou canst 
do it.' So he struck me on the face. 

" I turned the other cheek to him, and said, ' Strike again.' 

" He struck again and again, till he had struck me five times. 
I turned my cheek for the sixth stroke ; but he turned away 
cursing. I shouted after him : ' The Lord forgive thee, for I 
do, and the Lord save thee.' 

" This was on a Saturday ; and when I went home from the 
coal-pit my wife saw my face was swollen, and asked what was 
the matter with it. I said : ' I 've been fighting, and I 've 
given a man a good thrashing.' 

" She burst out weeping, and said, ' O Richard, what made 
you fight ? ' Then I told her all about it ; and she thanked the 
Lord I had not struck back. 

" But the Lord had struck, and his blows have more effect 
than man's. Monday came. The devil began to tempt me, 
saying : ' The other men will laugh at thee for allowing Tom 
to treat thee as he did on Saturday.' I cried, ' Get thee behind 
me, Satan ; ' and went on my way to the coal-pit. 

" Tom was the first man I saw. I said ' Good-morning,' but 
got no reply. 

" He went down first. When I got down, I was surprised to 
see him sitting on the wagon-road waiting for me. When I 
came to him he burst into tears and said : ' Richard, will you 
forgive me for striking you?' 


" ' I have forgiven thee,' said I ; ' ask God to forgive thee. 
The Lord bless thee.' I gave him my hand, and we went each 
to his work." 1 

' Love your enemies ! ' Mark you, not simply those who 
happen not to be your friends, but your enemies, your 
positive and active enemies. Either this is a mere Ori- 
ental hyperbole, a bit of verbal extravagance, meaning 
only that we should, as far as we can, abate our animos- 
ities, or else it is sincere and literal. Outside of certain 
cases of intimate individual relation, it seldom has been 
taken literally. Yet it makes one ask the question : Can 
there in general be a level of emotion so unifying, so ob- 
literative of differences between man and man, that even 
enmity may come to be an irrelevant circumstance and fail 
to inhibit the friendlier interests aroused ? If positive well- 
wishing could attain so supreme a degree of excitement, 
those who were swayed by it might well seem superhuman 
beings. Their life would be morally discrete from the 
life of other men, and there is no saying, in the absence 
of positive experience of an authentic kind, for there 
are few active examples in our scriptures, and the Bud- 
dhistic examples are legendary, 2 what the effects might 
be : they might conceivably transform the world. 

Psychologically and in principle, the precept i Love 
your enemies ' is not self-contradictory. It is merely the 
extreme limit of a kind of magnanimity with which, in 
the shape of pitying tolerance of our oppressors, we are 
fairly familiar. Yet if radically followed, it would in- 
volve such a breach with our instinctive springs of action 
as a whole, and with the present world's arrangements, 

1 J. Patterson's Life of Richard Weaver, pp. 66-68, abridged. 

2 As where the future Buddha, incarnated as a hare, jumps into the fire 
to cook himself for a meal for a beggar having previously shaken him- 
self three times, so that none of the insects in his fur should perish with 


that a critical point would practically be passed, and we 
should be born into another kingdom of being. Reli- 
gious emotion makes us feel that other kingdom to be 
close at hand, within our reach. 

The inhibition of instinctive repugnance is proved not 
only by the showing of love to enemies, but by the show- 
ing of it to any one who is personally loathsome. In the 
annals of saintliness we find a curious mixture of motives 
impelling in this direction. Asceticism plays its part ; and 
along with charity pure and simple, we find humility or 
the desire to disclaim distinction and to grovel on the 
common level before God. Certainly all three principles 
were at work when Francis of Assisi and Ignatius Loyola 
exchanged their garments with those of filthy beggars. 
All three are at work when religious persons consecrate 
their lives to the care of leprosy or other peculiarly un- 
pleasant diseases. The nursing of the sick is a function 
to which the religious seem strongly drawn, even apart 
from the fact that church traditions set that way. But in 
the annals of this sort of charity we find fantastic excesses 
of devotion recorded which are only explicable by the 
frenzy of self-immolation simultaneously aroused. Francis 
of Assisi kisses his lepers ; Margaret Mary Alacoque, Fran- 
cis Xavier, St. John of God, and others are said to have 
cleansed the sores and ulcers of their patients with their 
respective tongues ; and the lives of such saints as Eliza- 
beth of Hungary and Madame de Chantal are full of a 
sort of reveling in hospital purulence, disagreeable to 
read of, and which makes us admire and shudder at the 
same time. 

So much for the human love aroused by the faith- 
state. Let me next speak of the Equanimity, Resignation, 
Fortitude, and Patience which it brings. 



1 A paradise of inward tranquillity ' seems to be faith's 
usual result ; and it is easy, even without being religious 
one's self, to understand this. A moment back, in treat- 
ing of the sense of God's presence, I spoke of the unac- 
countable feeling of safety which one may then have. 
And, indeed, how can it possibly fail to steady the nerves, 
to cool the fever, and appease the fret, if one be sensibly 
conscious that, no matter what one's difficulties for the 
moment may appear to be, one's life as a whole is in 
the keeping of a power whom one can absolutely trust ? 
In deeply religious men the abandonment of self to this 
power is passionate. Whoever not only says, but feels, 
' God's will be done,' is mailed against every weakness ; 
and the whole historic array of martyrs, missionaries, and 
religious reformers is there to prove the tranquil-minded- 
ness, under naturally agitating or distressing circum- 
stances, which self -surrender brings. 

The temper of the tranquil-mindedness differs, of 
course, according as the person is of a constitutionally 
sombre or of a constitutionally cheerful cast of mind. 
In the sombre it partakes more of resignation and sub- 
mission ; in the cheerful it is a joyous consent. As an 
example of the former temper, I quote part of a letter 
from Professor Lagneau, a venerated teacher of philosophy 
who lately died, a great invalid, at Paris : 

" My life, for the success of which you send good wishes, 
will be what it is able to be. I ask nothing from it, I expect 
nothing from it. For long years now I exist, think, and act, 
and am worth what I am worth, only through the despair which 
is my sole strength and my sole foundation. May it preserve for 
me, even in these last trials to which I am coming, the courage 
to do without the desire of deliverance. I ask nothing more 
from the Source whence all strength cometh, and if that is 
granted, your wishes will have been accomplished." 1 

1 Bulletin de l'Union pour l'Action Morale, September, 1894. 


There is something pathetic and fatalistic about this, 
but the power of such a tone as a protection against out- 
ward shocks is manifest. Pascal is another Frenchman 
of pessimistic natural temperament. He expresses still 
more amply the temper of self-surrendering submissive- 
ness : 

" Deliver me, Lord," he writes in his prayers, " from the sad- 
ness at my proper suffering which self-love might give, hut put 
into me a sadness like your own. Let my sufferings appease 
your choler. Make them an occasion for my conversion and 
salvation. I ask you neither for health nor for sickness, for 
life nor for death ; but that you may dispose of my health and 
my sickness, my life and my death, for your glory, for my sal- 
vation, and for the use of the Church and of your saints, of 
whom I would by your grace be one. You alone know what is 
expedient for me ; you are the sovereign master ; do with me 
according to your will. Give to me, or take away from me, only 
conform my will to yours. I know but one thing, Lord, that 
it is good to follow you, and bad to offend you. Apart from 
that, I know not what is good or bad in anything. I know not 
which is most profitable to me, health or sickness, wealth or 
poverty, nor anything else in the world. That discernment is 
beyond the power of men or angels, and is hidden among the 
secrets of your Providence, which I adore, but do not seek to 
fathom." * 

When we reach more optimistic temperaments, the 
resignation grows less passive. Examples are sown so 
broadcast throughout history that I might well pass on 
without citation. As it is, I snatch at the first that oc- 
curs to my mind. Madame Guyon, a frail creature phy- 
sically, was yet of a happy native disposition. She went 
through many perils with admirable serenity of soul. 
After being sent to prison for heresy, 

" Some of my friends," she writes, " wept bitterly at the 
hearing of it, but such was my state of acquiescence and resig- 
1 B. Pascal : Prieres pour les Maladies, xiii., xiv., abridged. 


nation that it failed to draw any tears from me. . . . There 
appeared to be in me then, as I find it to be in me now, such 
an entire loss of what regards myself, that any of my own 
interests gave me little pain or pleasure ; ever wanting to will 
or wish for myself only the very thing which God does." In 
another place she writes : " We all of us came near perishing 
in a river which we found it necessary to pass. The carriage 
sank in the quicksand. Others who were with us threw them- 
selves out in excessive fright. But I found my thoughts so 
much taken up with God that I had no distinct sense of danger. 
It is true that the thought of being drowned passed across my 
mind, but it cost no other sensation or reflection in me than 
this that I felt quite contented and willing it were so, if it 
were my heavenly Father's choice." Sailing from Nice to 
Genoa, a storm keeps her eleven days at sea. " As the irritated 
waves dashed round us," she writes, " I could not help experi- 
encing a certain degree of satisfaction in my mind. I pleased 
myself with thinking that those mutinous billows, under the 
command of Him who does all things rightly, might probably 
furnish me with a watery grave. Perhaps I carried the point 
too far, in the pleasure which I took in thus seeing myself 
beaten and bandied by the swelling waters. Those who were 
with me took notice of my intrepidity." x 

The contempt of danger which religious enthusiasm pro- 
duces may be even more buoyant still. I take an example 
from that charming recent autobiography, " With Christ 
at Sea," by Frank Bullen. A couple of days after he 
went through the conversion on shipboard of which he 
there gives an account, 

" It was blowing stiffly," he writes, " and we were carrying 
a press of canvas to get north out of the bad weather. Shortly 
after four bells we hauled down the flying- jib, and I sprang 
out astride the boom to furl it. I was sitting astride the boom 
when suddenly it gave way with me. The sail slipped through 
my fingers, and I fell backwards, hanging head downwards 

1 From Thomas C. Upham's Life and Religious Opinions and Experiences 
of Madame de la Mothe Guyon, New York, 1877, ii. 48, i. 141,413, abridged. 


over the seething tumult of shining foam under the ship's bows, 
suspended by one foot. But I felt only high exultation in my 
certainty of eternal life. Although death was divided from 
me by a hair's breadth, and I was acutely conscious of the fact, 
it gave me no sensation but joy. I suppose I could have hung 
there no longer than five seconds, but in that time I lived a 
whole age of delight. But my body asserted itself, and with a 
desperate gymnastic effort I regained the boom. How I furled 
the sail I don't know, but I sang at the utmost pitch of my 
voice praises to God that went pealing out over the dark waste 
of waters." 1 

The annals of martyrdom are of course the signal field 
of triumph for religious imperturbability. Let me cite 
as an example the statement of a humble sufferer, perse- 
cuted as a Huguenot under Louis XIV. : 

" They shut all the doors," Blanche Gamond writes, " and I 
saw six women, each with a bunch of willow rods as thick as 
the hand could hold, and a yard long. He gave me the order, 
' Undress yourself,' which I did. He said, ' You are leaving on 
your shift ; you must take it off.' They had so little patience 
that they took it off themselves, and I was naked from the 
waist up. They brought a cord with which they tied me to a 
beam in the kitchen. They drew the cord tight with all their 
strength and asked me, ' Does it hurt you ? ' and then they dis- 
charged their fury upon me, exclaiming as they struck me, 
' Pray now to your God.' It was the Roulette woman who held 
this language. But at this moment I received the greatest con- 
solation that I can ever receive in my life, since I had the 
honor of being whipped for the name of Christ, and in addition 
of being crowned with his mercy and his consolations. Why 
can I not write down the inconceivable influences, consolations, 
and peace which I felt interiorly ? To understand them one 
must have passed by the same trial ; they were so great that I 
was ravished, for there where afflictions abound grace is given 
superabundantly. In vain the women cried, ' We must double 
our blows ; she does not feel them, for she neither speaks nor 

1 Op. cit., London, 1901, p. 130. 


cries.' And how should I have cried, since I was swooning 
with happiness within ? " 1 

The transition from tenseness, self-responsibility, and 
worry, to equanimity, receptivity, and peace, is the most 
wonderful of all those shiftings of inner equilibrium, 
those changes of the personal centre of energy, which I 
have analyzed so often ; and the chief wonder of it is 
that it so often comes about, not by doing, but by simply 
relaxing 1 and throwing: the burden down. This abandon- 
ment of self-responsibility seems to be the fundamental 
act in specifically religious, as distinguished from moral 
practice. It antedates theologies and is independent of 
philosophies. Mind-cure, theosophy, stoicism, ordinary 
neurological hygiene, insist on it as emphatically as 
Christianity does, and it is capable of entering into closest 
marriage with every speculative creed. 2 Christians who 
have it strongly live in what is called ' recollection,' and 
are never anxious about the future, nor worry over the 
outcome of the day. Of Saint Catharine of Genoa it is 
said that " she took cognizance of things, only as they 
were presented to her in succession, moment by moment." 
To her holy soul, " the divine moment was the present 
moment, . . . and when the present moment was esti- 
mated in itself and in its relations, and when the duty 
that was involved in it was accomplished, it was permitted 
to pass away as if it had never been, and to give way to 
the facts and duties of the moment which came after." 

1 Claparede et Goty : Deux Heroines de la Foi, Paris, 1880, p. 112. 

2 Compare these three different statements of it : A. P. Call : As a Mat- 
ter of Course, Boston, 1894 ; H. W. Dresser : Living by the Spirit, New- 
York and London, 1900 ; H. W. Smith : The Christian's Secret of a Happy 
Life, published by the Willard Tract Repository, and now in thousands of 

8 T. C. Upham: Life of Madame Catharine Adorna, 3d ed., New York, 
1864, pp. 158, 172-174. 


Hinduism, mind-cure, and theosophy all lay great em- 
phasis upon this concentration of the consciousness upon 
the moment at hand. 

The next religious symptom which I will note is what 
I have called Purity of Life. The saintly person becomes 
exceedingly sensitive to inner inconsistency or discord, 
and mixture and confusion grow intolerable. All the 
mind's objects and occupations must be ordered with 
reference to the special spiritual excitement which is now 
its keynote. Whatever is unspiritual taints the pure 
water of the soul and is repugnant. Mixed with this 
exaltation of the moral sensibilities there is also an ardor 
of sacrifice, for the beloved deity's sake, of everything 
unworthy of him. Sometimes the spiritual ardor is so 
sovereign that purity is achieved at a stroke we have 
seen examples. Usually it is a more gradual conquest. 
Billy Bray's account of his abandonment of tobacco is a 
good example of the latter form of achievement. 

" I had been a smoker as well as a drunkard, and I used to 
love my tobacco as much as I loved my meat, and I would rather 
go down into the mine without my dinner than without my pipe. 
In the days of old, the Lord spoke by the mouths of his ser- 
vants, the prophets ; now he speaks to us by the spirit of his Son. 
I had not only the feeling part of religion, but I could hear the 
small, still voice within speaking to me. When I took the pipe 
to smoke, it would be applied within, ' It is an idol, a lust ; wor- 
ship the Lord with clean lips.' So, I felt it was not right to 
smoke. The Lord also sent a woman to convince me. I was 
one day in a house, and I took out my pipe to light it at the fire, 
and Mary Hawke for that was the woman's name said, 
'Do you not feel it is wrong to smoke?' I said that I felt 
something inside telling me that it was an idol, a lust, and she 
said that was the Lord. Then I said, ' Now, I must give it up, 
for the Lord is telling me of it inside, and the woman outside, 


so the tobacco must go, love it as I may.' There and then I 
took the tobacco out of my pocket, and threw it into the fire, 
and put the pipe under my foot, ' ashes to ashes, dust to dust.' 
And I have not smoked since. I found it hard to break off 
old habits, but I cried to the Lord for help, and he gave me 
strength, for he has said, ' Call upon me in the day of trouble, 
and I will deliver thee.' The day after I gave up smoking I 
had the toothache so bad that I did not know what to do. I 
thought this was owing to giving up the pipe, but I said I would 
never smoke again, if I lost every tooth in my head. I said, 
' Lord, thou hast told us My yoke is easy and my burden is 
light,' and when I said that, all the pain left me. Sometimes 
the thought of the pipe would come back to me very strong ; but 
the Lord strengthened me against the habit, and, bless his 
name, I have not smoked since." 

Bray's biographer writes that after he had given up smok- 
ing, he thought that he would chew a little, but he conquered 
this dirty habit, too. " On one occasion," Bray said, " when at 
a prayer-meeting at Hicks Mill, I heard the Lord say to me, 
' Worship me with clean lips.' So, when we got up from our 
knees, I took the quid out of my mouth and ' whipped 'en ' 
[threw it] under the form. But, when we got on our knees 
again, I put another quid into my mouth. Then the Lord said 
to me again, ' Worship me with clean lips.' So I took the quid 
out of my mouth, and whipped 'en under the form again, and 
said, ' Yes, Lord, I will.' From that time I gave up chewing 
as well as smoking, and have been a free man." 

The ascetic forms which the impulse for veracity and 
purity of life may take are often pathetic enough. The 
early Quakers, for example, had hard battles to wage 
against the worldliness and insincerity of the ecclesiasti- 
cal Christianity of their time. Yet the battle that cost 
them most wounds was probably that which they fought 
in defense of their own right to social veracity and sincer- 
ity in their thee-ing and thou-ing, in not doffing the hat 
or giving titles of respect. It was laid on George Fox 


that these conventional customs were a lie and a sham, 
and the whole body of his followers thereupon renounced 
them, as a sacrifice to truth, and so that their acts and 
the spirit they professed might be more in accord. 

" When the Lord sent me into the world," says Fox in his 
Journal, " he forbade me to put off my hat to any, high or low : 
and I was required to 'thee' and 'thou' all men and women, 
without any respect to rich or poor, great or small. And as I 
traveled up and down, I was not to bid people Good-morning, 
or Good-evening, neither might I bow or scrape with my leg to 
any one. This made the sects and professions rage. Oh ! the 
rage that was in the priests, magistrates, professors, and people 
of all sorts : and especially in priests and professors : for though 
' thou ' to a single person was according to their accidence and 
grammar rules, and according to the Bible, yet they could not 
bear to hear it : and because I could not put off my hat to them, 
it set them all into a rage. . . . Oh ! the scorn, heat, and fury 
that arose ! Oh ! the blows, punchings, beatings, and imprison- 
ments that we underwent for not putting off our hats to men ! 
Some had their hats violently plucked off and thrown away, so 
that they quite lost them. The bad language and evil usage 
we received on this account is hard to be expressed, besides the 
danger we were sometimes in of losing our lives for this mat- 
ter, and that by the great professors of Christianity, who thereby 
discovered they were not true believers. And though it was 
but a small thing in the eye of man, yet a wonderful confusion 
it brought among all professors and priests : but, blessed be 
the Lord, many came to see the vanity of that custom of put- 
ting off hats to men, and felt the weight of Truth's testimony 
against it." 

In the autobiography of Thomas Elwood, an early 
Quaker, who at one time was secretary to John Milton, we 
find an exquisitely quaint and candid account of the trials 
he underwent both at home and abroad, hi following 
Fox's canons of sincerity. The anecdotes are too lengthy 
for citation ; but Elwood sets down his manner of feeling 


about these things in a shorter passage, which I will 
quote as a characteristic utterance of spiritual sensibil- 
ity : 

" By this divine light, then," says Elwood, " I saw that 
though I had not the evil of the common uncleanliness, debauch- 
ery, profaneness, and pollutions of the world to put away, be- 
cause I had, through the great goodness of God and a civil edu- 
cation, been preserved out of those grosser evils, yet I had many 
other evils to put away and to cease from ; some of which were 
not by the world, which lies in wickedness (1 John v. 19), ac- 
counted evils, but by the light of Christ were made manifest to 
me to be evils, and as such condemned in me. 

" As particularly those fruits and effects of pride that dis- 
cover themselves in the vanity and superfluity of apparel ; which 
I took too much delight in. This evil of my doings I was 
required to put away and cease from ; and judgment lay upon 
me till I did so. 

" I took off from my apparel those unnecessary trimmings 
of lace, l'ibbons, and useless buttons, which had no real service, 
but were set on only for that which was by mistake called 
ornament ; and I ceased to wear rings. 

" Again, the giving of flattering titles to men between whom 
and me there was not any relation to which such titles could be 
pretended to belong. This was an evil I had been much 
addicted to, and was accounted a ready artist in ; therefore 
this evil also was I required to put away and cease from. So 
that thenceforward I durst not say, Sir, Master, My Lord, 
Madam (or My Dame) ; or say Your Servant to any one to 
whom I did not stand in the real relation of a servant, which I 
had never done to any. 

" Again, respect of persons, in uncovering the head and bow- 
ing the knee or body in salutation, was a practice I had been 
much in the use of ; and this, being one of the vain customs of 
the world, introduced by the spirit of the world, instead of the 
true honor which this is a false representation of, and used in 
deceit as a token of respect by persons one to another, who 
bear no real respect one to another ; and besides this, being a 


type and a proper emblem of that divine honor which all ought 
to pay to Almighty God, and which all of all sorts, who take 
upon them the Christian name, appear in when they offer their 
prayers to him, and therefore should not be given to men ; I 
found this to be one of those evils which I had been too Ions 
doing ; therefore I was now required to put it away and cease 
from it. 

" Again, the corrupt and unsound form of speaking in the 
plural number to a single person, you to one, instead of thou, 
contrary to the pure, plain, and single language of truth, thou 
to one, and you to more than one, which had always been used 
by God to men, and men to God, as well as one to another, 
from the oldest record of time till corrupt men, for corrupt 
ends, in later and corrupt times, to flatter, fawn, and work 
upon the corrupt nature in men, brought in that false and 
senseless way of speaking you to one, which has since corrupted 
the modern languages, and hath greatly debased the spirits and 
depraved the manners of men ; this evil custom I had been 
as forward in as others, and this I was now called out of and 
required to cease from. 

" These and many more evil customs which had sprung up 
in the night of darkness and general apostasy from the truth 
and true religion were now, by the inshining of this pure ray 
of divine light in my conscience, gradually discovered to me to 
be what I ought to cease from, shun, and stand a witness 
against." 1 

These early Quakers were Puritans indeed. The slight- 
est inconsistency between profession and deed jarred some 
of them to active protest. John Woolman writes in his 
diary : 

" In these journeys I have been where much cloth hath been 
dyed ; and have at sundry times walked over ground where 
much of their dyestuffs has drained away. This hath produced 
a longing in my mind that people might come into cleanness 
of spirit, cleanness of person, and cleanness about their houses 

1 The History of Thomas Elwood, written by Himself, London, 1885, 
pp. 32-34. 


and garments. Dyes being invented partly to please the eye, 
and partly to hide dirt, I have felt in this weak state, when 
traveling in dirtiness, and affected with unwholesome scents, a 
strong desire that the nature of dyeing cloth to hide dirt may 
be more fully considered. 

" Washing our garments to keep them sweet is cleanly, but 
it is the opposite to real cleanliness to hide dirt in them. 
Through giving way to hiding dirt in our garments a spirit 
which would conceal that which is disagreeable is strengthened. 
Real cleanliness becometh a holy people ; but hiding that which 
is not clean by coloring our garments seems contrary to the 
sweetness of sincerity. Through some sorts of dyes cloth is 
rendered less useful. And if the value of dyestuffs, and ex- 
pense of dyeing, and the damage done to cloth, were all added 
together, and that cost applied to keeping all sweet and clean, 
how much more would real cleanliness prevail. 

" Thinking often on these things, the use of hats and gar- 
ments dyed with a dye hurtful to them, and wearing more 
clothes in summer than are useful, grew more uneasy to me ; 
believing; them to be customs which have not their foundation 
in pure wisdom. The apprehension of being singular from my 
beloved friends was a strait upon me ; and thus I continued in 
the use of some things, contrary to my judgment, about nine 
months. Then I thought of getting a hat the natural color of 
the fur, but the apprehension of being looked upon as one affect- 
ing singularity felt uneasy to me. On this account I was under 
close exercise of mind in the time of our general spring meet- 
ing in 1762, greatly desiring to be rightly directed ; when, being 
deeply bowed in spirit before the Lord, I was made willing to 
submit to what I apprehended was required of me ; and when 
I returned home, got a hat of the natural color of the fur. 

" In attending meetings, this singularity was a trial to me, 
and more especially at this time, as white hats were used by 
some who were fond of following the changeable modes of 
dress, and as some friends, who knew not from what motives I 
wore it, grew shy of me, I felt my way for a time shut up in 
the exercise of the ministry. Some friends were apprehensive 
that my wearing such a hat savored of an affected singularity : 

'Uvy\\>S*ot\ 0-< V } 


those who spoke with me in a friendly way, I generally informed 
in a few words, that I believed my wearing it was not in my 
own will." 

When the craving for moral consistency and purity is 
developed to this degree, the subject may well find the 
outer world too full of shocks to dwell in, and can unify 
his life and keep his soul unspotted only by withdrawing 
from it. That law which impels the artist to achieve 
harmony in his composition by simply dropping out what- 
ever jars, or suggests a discord, rules also in the spiritual 
life. To omit, says Stevenson, is the one art in litera- 
ture : " If I knew how to omit, I should ask no other 
knowledge." And life, when full of disorder and slack- 
ness and vague superfluity, can no more have what we 
call character than literature can have it under similar 
conditions. So monasteries and communities of sympa- 
thetic devotees open their doors, and in their changeless 
order, characterized by omissions quite as much as con- 
stituted of actions, the holy-minded person finds that 
inner smoothness and cleanness which it is torture to 
him to feel violated at every turn by the discordancy 
and brutality of secular existence. 

That the scrupulosity of purity may be carried to a 
fantastic extreme must be admitted. In this it resembles 
Asceticism, to which further symptom of saintliness we 
had better turn next. The adjective ' ascetic ! is applied 
to conduct originating on diverse psychological levels, 
which I might as well begin by distinguishing from one 

1. Asceticism may be a mere expression of organic 
hardihood, disgusted with too much ease. 

2. Temperance in meat and drink, simplicity of ap- 


parel, chastity, and non-pampering of the body generally, 
may be fruits of the love of purity, shocked by whatever 
savors of the sensual. 

3. They may also be fruits of love, that is, they may 
appeal to the subject in the light of sacrifices which he 
is happy in making to the Deity whom he acknowledges. 

4. Again, ascetic mortifications and torments may be 
due to pessimistic feelings about the self, combined with 
theological beliefs concerning expiation. The devotee 
may feel that he is buying himself free, or escaping 
worse sufferings hereafter, by doing penance now. 

5. In psychopathic persons, mortifications may be 
entered on irrationally, by a sort of obsession or fixed 
idea which comes as a challenge and must be worked 
off, because only thus does the subject get his interior 
consciousness feeling right again. 

6. Finally, ascetic exercises may in rarer instances be 
prompted by genuine perversions of the bodily sensibility, 
in consequence of which normally pain-giving stimuli are 
actually felt as pleasures. 

I will try to give an instance under each of these heads 
in turn ; but it is not easy to get them pure, for in cases 
pronounced enough to be immediately classed as ascetic, 
several of the assigned motives usually work together. 
Moreover, before citing any examples at all, I must in- 
vite you to some general psychological considerations 
which apply to all of them alike. 

A strange moral transformation has within the past 
century swept over our Western world. We no longer 
think that we are called on to face physical pain with 
equanimity. It is not expected of- a man that he should 
either endure it or inflict much of it, and to listen to 
the recital of cases of it makes our flesh creep morally 
as well as physically. The way in which our ancestors 


looked upon pain as an eternal ingredient of the world's 
order, and both caused and suffered it as a matter-of- 
course portion of their day's work, fills us with amaze- 
ment. We wonder that any human beings could have 
been so callous. The result of this historic alteration is 
that even in the Mother Church herself, where ascetic 
discipline has such a fixed traditional prestige as a factor 
of merit, it has largely come into desuetude, if not dis- 
credit. A believer who flagellates or ' macerates ' him- 
self to-day arouses more wonder and fear than emulation. 
Many Catholic writers who admit that the times have 
changed in this respect do so resignedly ; and even add 
that perhaps it is as well not to waste feelings in regret- 
ting the matter, for to return to the heroic corporeal 
discipline of ancient days might be an extravagance. 

Where to seek the easy and the pleasant seems instinc- 
tive and instinctive it appears to be in man ; any de- 
liberate tendency to pursue the hard and painful as such 
and for their own sakes might well strike one as purely 
abnormal. Nevertheless, in moderate degrees it is natural 
and even usual to human nature to court the arduous. It 
is only the extreme manifestations of the tendency that 
can be regarded as a paradox. 

The psychological reasons for this lie near the surface. 
When we drop abstractions and take what we call our 
will in the act, we see that it is a very complex function. 
It involves both stimulations and inhibitions ; it follows 
generalized habits ; it is escorted by reflective criticisms ; 
and it leaves a good or a bad taste of itself behind, 
according to the manner of the performance. The result 
is that, quite apart from the immediate pleasure which 
any sensible experience may give us, our own general 
moral attitude in procuring or undergoing the experience 
brings with it a secondary satisfaction or distaste. Some 


men and women, indeed, there are who can live on smiles 
and the word 'yes' forever. But for others (indeed for 
most), this is too tepid and relaxed a moral climate. Pas- 
sive happiness is slack and insipid, and soon grows mawk- 
ish and intolerable. Some austerity and wintry negativity, 
some roughness, danger, stringency, and effort, some 
' no ! no ! ' must be mixed in, to produce the sense of an 
existence with character and texture and power. The 
range of individual differences in this respect is enor- 
mous ; but whatever the mixture of yeses and noes may 
be, the person is infallibly aware when he has struck it 
in the right proportion for him. This, he feels, is my 
proper vocation, this is the optimum , the law, the life for 
me to live. Here I find the degree of equilibrium, safety, 
calm, and leisure which I need, or here I find the chal- 
lenge, passion, fight, and hardship without which my 
soul's energy expires. 

Every individual soul, in short, like every individual 
machine or organism, has its own best conditions of effi- 
ciency. A given machine will run best under a certain 
steam-pressure, a certain amperage ; an organism under a 
certain diet, weight, or exercise. You seem to do best, 
I heard a doctor say to a patient, at about 140 milli- 
meters of arterial tension. And it is just so with our 
sundry souls : some are happiest in calm weather ; some 
need the sense of tension, of strong volition, to make 
them feel alive and well. For these latter souls, whatever 
is gained from day to day must be paid for by sacrifice 
and inhibition, or else it comes too cheap and has no zest. 

Now when characters of this latter sort become reli- 
gious, they are apt to turn the edge of their need of effort 
and negativity against their natural self; and the ascetic 
life gets evolved as a consequence. 

When Professor Tyndall in one of his lectures tells us 


that Thomas Carlyle put him into his bath-tub every 
morning of a freezing Berlin winter, he proclaimed one 
of the lowest grades of asceticism. Even without Car- 
lyle, most of us find it necessary to our soul's health to 
start the day with a rather cool immersion. A little far- 
ther along the scale w T e get such statements as this, from 
one of my correspondents, an agnostic : 

" Often at night in my warm bed I would feel ashamed to 
depend so on the warmth, and whenever the thought would 
come over me I would have to get up, no matter what time of 
night it was, and stand for a minute in the cold, just so as to 
prove my manhood." 

Such cases as these belong simply to our head 1. In 
the next case we probably have a mixture of heads 2 
and 3 the asceticism becomes far more systematic and 
pronounced. The writer is a Protestant, whose sense of 
moral energy could doubtless be gratified on no lower 
terms, and I take his case from Starbuck's manuscript 

" I practiced fasting and mortification of the flesh. I secretly 
made burlap shirts, and put the burrs next the skin, and wore 
pebbles in my shoes. I would spend nights flat on my back on 
the floor without any covering." 

The Roman Church has organized and codified all this 
sort of thing, and given it a market-value in the shape of 
' merit.' But we see the cultivation of hardship cropping 
out under every sky and in every faith, as a spontaneous 
need of character. Thus we read of Channing, when 
first settled as a Unitarian minister, that 

" He was now more simple than ever, and seemed to have 
become incapable of any form of self-indulgence. He took the 
smallest room in the house for his study, though he might easily 
have commanded one more light, airy, and in every way more 
suitable ; and chose for his sleeping chamber an attic which he 


shared with a younger brother. The furniture of the latter 
might have answered for the cell of an anchorite, and consisted 
of a hard mattress on a cot-bedstead, plain wooden chairs and 
table, with matting on the floor. It was without fire, and to 
cold he was throughout life extremely sensitive ; but he never 
complained or appeared in any way to be conscious of incon- 
venience. ' I recollect,' says his brother, ' after one most severe 
night, that in the morning he sportively thus alluded to his 
suffering : " If my bed were my country, I should be somewhat 
like Bonaparte : I have no control except over the part which 
I occupy ; the instant I move, frost takes possession." In 
sickness only would he change for the time his apartment 
and accept a few -comforts. The dress too that he habitually 
adopted was of most inferior quality ; and garments were con- 
stantly worn which the world would call mean, though an almost 
feminine neatness preserved him from the least appearance 
of neglect." 1 

Channing's asceticism, such as it was, was evidently a 
compound of hardihood and love of purity. The demo- 
cracy which is an offshoot of the enthusiasm of humanity, 
and of which I will speak later under the head of the 
cult of poverty, doubtless bore also a share. Certainly 
there was no pessimistic element in his case. In the next 
case w T e have a strongly pessimistic element, so that it 
belongs under head 4. John Cennick was Methodism's 
first lay preacher. In 1735 he was convicted of sin, 
while walking in Ckeapside, 

" And at once left off song-singing, card-playing, and attend- 
ing theatres. Sometimes he wished to go to a popish monastery, 
to spend his life in devout retirement. At other times he longed 
to live in a cave, sleeping on fallen leaves, and feeding on 
forest fruits. He fasted long and often, and prayed nine times 
a day. . . . Fancying dry bread too great an indulgence for so 
great a sinner as himself, he began to feed on potatoes, acorns, 
crabs, and grass ; and often wished that he could live on roots 

1 Memoirs of W. E. Channing, Boston, 1840, i. 196. 


and herbs. At length, in 1737, he found peace with God, and 
went on his way rejoicing." 1 

In this poor man we have morbid melancholy and fear, 
and the sacrifices made are to purge out sin, and to buy 
safety. The hopelessness of Christian theology in respect 
of the flesh and the natural man generally has, in sys- 
tematizing fear, made of it one tremendous incentive to 
self -mortification. It would be quite unfair, however, in 
spite of the fact that this incentive has often been worked 
in a mercenary way for hortatory purposes, to call it a 
mercenary incentive. The impulse to expiate and do 
penance is, in its first intention, far too immediate and 
spontaneous an expression of self-despair and anxiety to 
be obnoxious to any such reproach. In the form of lov- 
ing sacrifice, of spending all we have to show our devo- 
tion, ascetic discipline of the severest sort may be the 
fruit of highly optimistic religious feeling. 

M. Vianney, the cure of Ars, was a French country 
priest, whose holiness was exemplary. We read in his 
life the following account of his inner need of sacri- 
fice : 

" ' On this path,' M. Vianney said, ' it is only the first step 
that costs. There is in mortification a balm and a savor with- 
out which one cannot live when once one has made their ac- 
quaintance. There is but one way in which to give one's self 
to God, that is, to give one's self entirely, and to keep nothing 
for one's self. The little that one keeps is only good to trouble 
one and make one suffer.' Accordingly he imposed it on him- 
self that he should never smell a flower, never drink when 
parched with thirst, never drive away a fly, never show disgust 
before a repugnant object, never complain of anything that had 
to do with his personal comfort, never sit down, never lean 
upon his elbows when he was kneeling. The Cure of Ars was 
very sensitive to cold, but he would never take means to pro- 

1 L. Tyerman : The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley, i. 274. 


tect himself against it. During a very severe winter, one of his 
missionaries contrived a false floor to his confessional and placed 
a metal case of hot water beneath. The trick succeeded, and 
the Saint was deceived : ' God is very good,' he said with 
emotion. ' This year, through all the cold, my feet have always 
been warm.' " * 

In this case the spontaneous impulse to make sacrifices 
for the pure love of God was probably the uppermost 
conscious motive. We may class it, then, under our head 
3. Some authors think that the impulse to sacrifice is 
the main religious phenomenon. It is a prominent, a 
universal phenomenon certainly, and lies deeper than 
any special creed. Here, for instance, is what seems to 
be a spontaneous example of it, simply expressing what 
seemed right at the time between the individual and his 
Maker. Cotton Mather, the New England Puritan divine, 
is generally reputed a rather grotesque pedant ; yet what 
is more touchingly simple than his relation of what hap- 
pened when his wife came to die? 

" When I saw to what a point of resignation I was now 
called of the Lord," he says, " I resolved, with his help, therein 
to glorify him. So, two hours before my lovely consort expired, 
I kneeled by her bedside, and I took into my two hands a dear 
hand, the dearest in the world. With her thus in my hands, 
I solemnly and sincerely gave her up unto the Lord : and 
in token of my real Resignation, I gently put her out of my 
hands, and laid away a most lovely hand, resolving that I would 
never touch it more. This was the hardest, and perhaps the 
bravest action that ever I did. She . . . told me that she 
signed and sealed my act of resignation. And though before 
that she called for me continually, she after this never asked 
for me any more." 2 

1 A. Mounin : Le Curd d'Ars, Vie de M. J. B. M. Vianney, 1864, p. 545, 

2 B. Wendell : Cotton Mather, New York, no date, p. 198. 


Father Vianney's asceticism taken in its totality was 
simply the result of a permanent flood of high spiritual 
enthusiasm, longing to make proof of itself. The Roman 
Church has, in its incomparable fashion, collected all the 
motives towards asceticism together, and so codified them 
that any one wishing to pursue Christian perfection may 
find a practical system mapped out for him in any one 
of a number of readv-made manuals. 1 The dominant 
Church notion of perfection is of course the negative 
one of avoidance of sin. Sin proceeds from concupiscence, 
and concupiscence from our carnal passions and tempta- 
tions, chief of which are pride, sensuality in all its forms, 
and the loves of worldly excitement and possession. All 
these sources of sin must be resisted ; and discipline and 
austerities are a most efficacious mode of meeting them. 
Hence there are always in these books chapters on self- 
mortification. But whenever a procedure is codified, the 
more delicate spirit of it evaporates, and if we wish the 
undiluted ascetic spirit, the passion of self -contempt 
wreaking itself on the poor flesh, the divine irrationality 
of devotion making a sacrificial gift of all it has (its sen- 
sibilities, namely) to the object of its adoration, we must 
go to autobiographies, or other individual documents. 

Saint John of the Cross, a Spanish mystic who flour- 
ished or rather who existed, for there was little that 
suggested flourishing about him in the sixteenth cen- 
tury, will supply a passage suitable for our purpose. 

" First of all, carefully excite in yourself an habitual affec- 
tionate will in all things to imitate Jesus Christ. If anything 
agreeable offers itself to your senses, yet does not at the same 

1 That of the earlier Jesuit, Rodriguez, which has been translated into 
all languages, is one of the best known. A convenient modern manual, very 
well put together, is L'Ascdtique Chre"tienne, by M. J. Ribet, Paris, Pous- 
sielgue, nouvelle e'dition, 1898. 


time tend purely to the honor and glory of God, renounce it and 
separate yourself from it for the love of Christ, who all his life 
long had no other taste or wish than to do the will of his Father 
whom he called his meat and nourishment. For example, you 
take satisfaction in hearing of things in which the glory of God 
bears no part. Deny yourself this satisfaction, mortify your 
wish to listen. You take pleasure in seeing objects which do 
not raise your mind to God : refuse yourself this pleasure, and 
turn away your eyes. The same with conversations and all 
other things. Act similarly, so far as you are able, with all the 
operations of the senses, striving to make yourself free from 
their yokes. 

" The radical remedy lies in the mortification of the four 
great natural passions, joy, hope, fear, and grief. You must 
seek to deprive these of every satisfaction and leave them as it 
were in darkness and the void. Let your soul therefore turn 
always : 

" Not to what is most easy, but to what is hardest ; 

" Not to what tastes best, but to what is most distasteful ; 

" Not to what most pleases, but to what disgusts ; 

" Not to matter of consolation, but to matter for desolation 
rather ; 

" Not to rest, but to labor ; 

" Not to desire the more, but the less ; 

" Not to aspire to what is highest and most precious, but to 
what is lowest and most contemptible ; 

" Not to will anything, but to will nothing ; 

" Not to seek the best in everything, but to seek the worst, so 
that you may enter for the love of Christ into a complete desti- 
tution, a perfect poverty of spirit, and an absolute renunciation 
of everything in this world. 

" Embrace these practices with all the energy of your soul 
and you will find in a short time great delights and unspeakable 

" Despise yourself, and wish that others should despise you. 

" Speak to your own disadvantage, and desire others to do the 
same ; 

" Conceive a low opinion of yourself, and find it good when 
others hold the same : 


" To enjoy the taste of all things, have no taste for anything. 

" To know all things, learn to know nothing. 

" To possess all things, resolve to possess nothing. 

" To be all things, be willing to be nothing. 

" To get to where you have no taste for anything, go through 
whatever experiences you have no taste for. 

" To learn to know nothing, go whither you are ignorant. 

" To reach what you possess not, go whithersoever you own 

" To be what you are not, experience what you are not." 

These later verses play with that vertigo of self-contra- 
diction which is so dear to mysticism. Those that come 
next are completely mystical, for in them Saint John 
passes from God to the more metaphysical notion of the 

" When you stop at one thing, you cease to open yourself to 
the All. 

" For to come to the All you must give up the All. 

" And if you should attain to owning the All, you must own 
it, desiring Nothing. 

" In this spoliation, the soul finds its tranquillity and rest. 
Profoundly established in the centre of its own nothingness, it 
can be assailed by naught that comes from below ; and since 
it no longer desires anything, what comes from above cannot 
depress it ; for its desires alone are the causes of its woes." 1 

And now, as a more concrete example of heads 4 and 
5, in fact of all our heads together, and of the irrational 
extreme to which a psychopathic individual may go in the 
line of bodily austerity, I will quote the sincere Suso's 
account of his own self-tortures. Suso, you will remem- 
ber, was one of the fourteenth century German mystics ; 
his autobiography, written in the third person, is a classic 
religious document. 

1 Saint Jean de la Croix, Vie et CEuvres, Paris, 1893, ii. 94, 99, 


" He was in his youth of a temperament full of fire and life ; 
and when this began to make itself felt, it was very grievous to 
him ; and he sought by many devices how he might bring his 
body into subjection. He wore for a long time a hair shirt and 
an iron chain, until the blood ran from him, so that he was 
obliged to leave them off. He secretly caused an undergarment 
to be made for him ; and in the undergarment he had strips of 
leather fixed, into which a hundred and fifty brass nails, pointed 
and filed sharp, were driven, and the points of the nails were 
always turned towards the flesh. He had this garment made 
very tight, and so arranged as to go round him and fasten in 
front, in order that it might fit the closer to his body, and the 
pointed nails might be driven into his flesh ; and it was high 
enough to reach upwards to his navel. In this he used to sleep 
at night. Now in summer, when it was hot, and he was very 
tired and ill from his journeyings, or when he held the office of 
lecturer, he would sometimes, as he lay thus in bonds, and 
oppressed with toil, and tormented also by noxious insects, cry 
aloud and give way to f retf ulness, and twist round and round in 
agony, as a worm does when run through with a pointed needle. 
It often seemed to him as if he were lying upon an ant-hill, 
from the torture caused by the insects ; for if he wished to 
sleep, or when he had fallen asleep, they vied with one another. 1 
Sometimes he cried to Almighty God in the fullness of his 
heart : Alas ! Gentle God, what a dying is this ! When a 
man is killed by murderers or strong beasts of prey it is soon 
over ; but I lie dying here under the cruel insects, and yet can- 
not die. The nights in winter were never so long, nor was the 
summer so hot, as to make him leave off this exercise. On the 
contrary, he devised something farther two leathern loops into 
which he put his hands, and fastened one on each side his throat, 
and made the fastenings so secure that even if his cell had been 

1 ' Insects,' i. e. lice, were an unfailing token of mediaeval sainthood. We 
read of Francis of Assisi's sheepskin that " often a companion of the saint 
would take it to the fire to clean and dispediculate it, doing so, as he said, 
because the seraphic father himself was no enemy of pedocchi, but on the 
contrary kept them on him (le portava adosso), and held it for an honor and 
a glory to wear these celestial pearls in his habit." Quoted by P. Saba- 
tier : Speculum Perfectionis, etc., Paris, 1898, p. 231, note. 


on fire about him, he could not have helped himself. This he 
continued until his hands and arms had become almost tremu- 
lous with the strain, and then he devised something else : two 
leather gloves ; and he caused a brazier to fit them all over with 
sharp-pointed brass tacks, and he used to put them on at night, 
in order that if he should try while asleep to throw off the hair 
undergarment, or relieve himself from the gnawings of the vile 
insects, the tacks might then stick into his body. And so it 
came to pass. If ever he sought to help himself with his hands 
in his sleep, he drove the sharp tacks into his breast, and tore 
himself, so that his flesh festered. When after many weeks 
the wounds had healed, he tore himself again and made fresh 

" He continued this tormenting exercise for about sixteen 
years. At the end of this time, when his blood was now chilled, 
and the fire of his temperament destroyed, there appeared to 
him in a vision on Whitsunday, a messenger from heaven, who 
told him that God required this of him no longer. Whereupon 
he discontinued it, and threw all these things away into a run- 
ning stream." 

Suso then tells how, to emulate the sorrows of his crucified 
Lord, he made himself a cross with thirty protruding iron 
needles and nails. This he bore on his bare back between his 
shoulders day and night. " The first time that he stretched out 
this cross upon his back his tender frame was struck with terror 
at it, and blunted the sharp nails slightly against a stone. But 
soon, repenting of this womanly cowardice, he pointed them all 
again with a file, and placed once more the cross upon him. It 
made his back, where the bones are, bloody and seared. When- 
ever he sat down or stood up, it was as if a hedgehog-skin were 
on him. If any one touched him unawares, or pushed against 
his clothes, it tore him." 

Suso next tells of his penitences by means of striking this 
cross and forcing the nails deeper into the flesh, and likewise 
of his self-scourgings, a dreadful story, and then goes on 
as follows : " At this same period the Servitor procured an 
old castaway door, and he used to lie upon it at night without 
any bedclothes to make him comfortable, except that he took off 


his shoes and wrapped a thick cloak round him. He thus se- 
cured for himself a most miserable bed ; for hard pea-stalks lay 
in humps under his head, the cross with the sharp nails stuck 
into his back, his arms were locked fast in bonds, the horsehair 
undergarment was round his loins, and the cloak too was heavy 
and the door hard. Thus he lay in wretchedness, afraid to stir, 
just like a log - , and he would send up many a sigh to God. 

" In winter he suffered very much from the frost. If he 
stretched out his feet they lay bare on the floor and froze, if he 
gathered them up the blood became all on fire in his legs, and 
this was great pain. His feet were full of sores, his legs drop- 
sical, his knees bloody and seared, his loins covered with scars 
from the horsehair, his body wasted, his mouth parched with 
intense thirst, and his hands tremulous from weakness. Amid 
these torments he spent his nights and days ; and he endured 
them all out of the greatness of the love which he bore in 
his heart to the Divine and Eternal Wisdom, our Lord Jesus 
Christ, whose agonizing sufferings he sought to imitate. After 
a time he gave up this penitential exercise of the door, and in- 
stead of it he took up his abode in a very small cell, and used 
the bench, which was so narrow and short that he could not 
stretch himself upon it, as his bed. In this hole, or upon the 
door, he lay at night in his usual bonds, for about eight years. 
It was also his custom, during the space of twenty-five years, 
provided he was staying in the convent, never to go after com- 
pline in winter into any warm room, or to the convent stove to 
warm himself, no matter how cold it might be, unless he was 
obliged to do so for other reasons. Throughout all these years 
he never took a bath, either a water or a sweating bath ; and 
this he did in order to mortify his comfort-seeking body. He 
practiced during a long time such rigid poverty that he would 
neither receive nor touch a penny, either with leave or without 
it. For a considerable time he strove to attain such a high 
degree of purity that he would neither scratch nor touch any 
part of his body, save only his hands and feet." 1 

1 The Life of the Blessed Henry Suso, by Himself, translated by T. F. 
Knox, London, 1865, pp. 56-80, abridged. 


I spare you the recital of poor Suso's self-inflicted tor- 
tures from thirst. It is pleasant to know that after his 
fortieth year, God showed him hy a series of visions that 
he had sufficiently broken down the natural man, and 
that he might leave these exercises off. His case is dis- 
tinctly pathological, but he does not seem to have had 
the alleviation, which some ascetics have enjoyed, of an 
alteration of sensibility capable of actually turning tor- 
ment into a perverse kind of pleasure. Of the founder 
of the Sacred Heart order, for example, we read that 

" Her love of pain and suffering was insatiable. . . . She 
said that she could cheerfully live till the day of judgment, pro- 
vided she might always have matter for suffering for God ; but 
that to live a single day without suffering would be intolerable. 
She said again that she was devoured with two unassuageable 
fevers, one for the holy communion, the other for suffering, 
humiliation, and annihilation. ' Nothing but pain,' she continu- 
ally said in her letters, ' makes my life supportable.' " 1 

So much for the phenomena to which the ascetic im- 
pulse will in certain persons give rise. In the ecclesias- 
tically consecrated character three minor branches of 
self -mortification have been recognized as indispensable 
pathways to perfection. I refer to the chastity, obedi- 
ence, and poverty which the monk vows to observe ; and 
upon the heads of obedience and poverty I will make a 
few remarks. 

First, of Obedience. The secular life of our twentieth 
century opens with this virtue held in no high esteem. 
The duty of the individual to determine his own conduct 
and profit or suffer by the consequences seems, on the 

1 Bougaud : Hist, de la bienheureuse Marguerite Marie, Paris, 1894, 
pp. 265, 171. Compare, also, pp. 386, 387. 


contrary, to be one of our best rooted contemporary Pro- 
testant social ideals. So much so that it is difficult even 
imaginatively to comprehend how men possessed of an 
inner life of their own could ever have come to think 
the subjection of its will to that of other finite creatures 
recommendable. I confess that to myself it seems some- 
thing of a mystery. Yet it evidently corresponds to a 
profound interior need of many persons, and we must do 
our best to understand it. 

On the lowest possible plane, one sees how the expe- 
diency of obedience in a firm ecclesiastical organization 
must have led to its being viewed as meritorious. Next, 
experience shows that there are times in every one's life 
when one can be better counseled by others than by 
one's self. Inability to decide is one of the commonest 
symptoms of fatigued nerves ; friends who see our 
troubles more broadly, often see them more wisely than 
we do ; so it is frequently an act of excellent virtue to 
consult and obey a doctor, a partner, or a wife. But, 
leaving these lower prudential regions, we find, in the 
nature of some of the spiritual excitements which we 
have been studying, good reasons for idealizing obedi- 
ence. Obedience may spring from the general religious 
phenomenon of inner softening and self -surrender and 
throwing one's self on higher powers. So saving are 
these attitudes felt to be that in themselves, apart from 
utility, they become ideally consecrated ; and in obeying 
a man whose fallibility we see through thoroughly, we, 
nevertheless, may feel much as we do when we resign our 
will to that of infinite wisdom. Add self-despair and the 
passion of self-crucifixion to this, and obedience becomes 
an ascetic sacrifice, agreeable quite irrespective of what- 
ever prudential uses it might have. 

It is as a sacrifice, a mode of ' mortification,' that 


obedience is primarily conceived by Catholic writers, a 
" sacrifice which man offers to God, and of which he is 
himself both the priest and the victim. By poverty he 
immolates his exterior possessions ; by chastity he immo- 
lates his body ; by obedience he completes the sacrifice, 
and gives to God all that he yet holds as his own, his two 
most precious goods, his intellect and his will. The sac- 
rifice is then complete and unreserved, a genuine holo- 
caust, for the entire victim is now consumed for the 
honor of God." * Accordingly, in Catholic discipline, we 
obey our superior not as mere man, but as the represent- 
ative of Christ. Obeying God in him by our intention, 
obedience is easy. But when the text-book theologians 
marshal collectively all their reasons for recommending 
it, the mixture sounds to our ears rather odd. 

" One of the great consolations of the monastic life," says a 
Jesuit authority, " is the assurance we have that in obeying we 
can commit no fault. The Superior may commit a fault in 
commanding you to do this thing or that, but you are certain 
that you commit no fault so long as you obey, because God will 
only ask you if you have duly performed what orders }*ou re- 
ceived, and if you can furnish a clear account in that respect, 
you are absolved entirely. Whether the things you did were 
opportune, or whether there were not something better that 
might have been done, these are questions not asked of you, but 
rather of your Superior. The moment what you did was done 
obediently, God wipes it out of your account, and charges it to 
the Superior. So that Saint Jerome well exclaimed, in cele- 
brating the advantages of obedience, ' Oh, sovereign liberty ! 
Oh, holy and blessed security by which one becomes almost 
impeccable ! ' 

" Saint John Climachus is of the same sentiment when he 
calls obedience an excuse before God. In fact, when God asks 
why you have done this or that, and you reply, it is because I 

1 Lejeune : Introduction a la Vie Mystique, 1899, p. 277. The holocaust 
simile goes back at least as far as Ignatius Loyola. 


was so ordered by my Superiors, God will ask for no other 
excuse. As a passenger in a good vessel with a good pilot 
need give himself no farther concern, but may go to sleep in 
peace, because the pilot has charge over all, and ' watches for 
him ' ; so a religious person who lives under the yoke of obedi- 
ence goes to heaven as if while sleeping, that is, while leaning 
entirely on the conduct of his Superiors, who are the pilots of 
his vessel, and keep watch for him continually. It is no small 
thing, of a truth, to be able to cross the stormy sea of life on 
the shoulders and in the arms of another, yet that is just the 
grace which God accords to those who live under the yoke of 
obedience. Their Superior bears all their burdens. ... A 
certain grave doctor said that he would rather spend his life in 
picking up straws by obedience, than by his own responsible 
choice busy himself with the loftiest works of charity, because 
one is certain of following the will of God in whatever one may 
do from obedience, but never certain in the same degree of 
anything which we may do of our own proper movement." 1 

One should read the letters in which Ignatius Loyola 
recommends obedience as the backbone of his order, if 
one would gain insight into the full spirit of its cult. 2 
They are too long to quote ; but Ignatius's belief is so 
vividly expressed in a couple of sayings reported by com- 
panions that, though they have been so often cited, I 
will ask your permission to copy them once more : 

" I ought," an early biographer reports him as saying, " on en- 
tering religion, and thereafter, to place myself entirely in the 
hands of God, and of him who takes His place by His authority. 
I ought to desire that my Superior should oblige me to give up 
my own judgment, and conquer my own mind. I ought to set 
up no difference between one Superior and another, . . . but 
recognize them all as equal before God, whose place they fill. 
For if I distinguish persons, I weaken the spirit of obedience. 

1 Alfonso Rodriguez, S. J. : Pratique de la Perfection Chre'tienne, Part 
iii., Treatise v., ch. x. 

2 Letters li. and cxx. of the collection translated into French by Bouix, 
Paris, 1870. 


In the hands of my Superior, I must be a soft wax, a thing, from 
which he is to require whatever pleases him, be it to write or 
receive letters, to speak or not to speak to such a person, or the 
like ; and I must put all my fervor in executing zealously and 
exactly what I am ordered. I must consider myself as a corpse 
which has neither intelligence nor will ; be like a mass of matter 
which without resistance lets itself be placed wherever it may 
please any one ; like a stick in the hand of an old man, who 
uses it according to his needs and places it where it suits him. 
So must'I be under the hands of the Order, to serve it in the 
way it judges most useful. 

" I must never ask of the Superior to be sent to a particular 
place, to be employed in a particular duty. ... I must consider 
nothing as belonging to me personally, and as regards the 
things I use, be like a statue which lets itself be stripped and 
never opposes resistance." 1 

The other saying is reported by Rodriguez in the chap- 
ter from which I a moment ago made quotations. When 
speaking of the Pope's authority, Rodriguez writes : 

" Saint Ignatius said, when general of his company, that if 
the Holy Father were to order him to set sail in the first bark 
which he might find in the port of Ostia, near Rome, and to 
abandon himself to the sea, without a mast, without sails, with- 
out oars or rudder or any of the things that are needful for 
navigation or subsistence, he would obey not only with alacrity, 
but without anxiety or repugnance, and even with a great in- 
ternal satisfaction." 2 

With a solitary concrete example of the extravagance 
to which the virtue we are considering has been carried, 
I will pass to the topic next in order. 

" Sister Marie Claire [of Port Royal] had been greatly im- 
bued with the holiness and excellence of M. de Langres. This 
prelate, soon after he came to Port Royal, said to her one day, 
seeing her so tenderly attached to Mother Angelique, that it 

1 Bartoli-Michel, ii. 13. 

2 Rodriguez : Op. cit., Part iii., Treatise v., ch. vi. 


would perhaps be better not to speak to her again. Marie 
Claire, greedy of obedience, took this inconsiderate word for an 
oracle of God, and from that day forward remained for several 
years without once speaking to her sister." 1 

Our next topic shall be Poverty, felt at all times and \ 
under all creeds as one adornment of a saintly life. Since 
the instinct of ownership is fundamental in man's nature, 
this is one more example of the ascetic paradox. Yet it 
appears no paradox at all, but perfectly reasonable, the 
moment one recollects how easily higher excitements hold 
lower cupidities in check. Having just quoted the Jesuit 
Rodriguez on the subject of obedience, I will, to give 
immediately a concrete turn to our discussion of pov- 
erty, also read you a page from his chapter on this latter 
virtue. You must remember that he is writing instruc- 
tions for monks of his own order, and bases them all on 
the text, " Blessed are the poor in spirit." 

" If any one of you," he says, " will know whether or not he is 
really poor in spirit, let him consider whether he loves the ordi- 
nary consequences and effects of poverty, which are hunger, 
thirst, cold, fatigue, and the denudation of all conveniences. 
See if you are glad to wear a worn-out habit full of patches. 
See if you are glad when something is lacking to your meal, 
when you are passed by in serving it, when what you receive is 
distasteful to you, when your cell is out of repair. If you are not 
glad of these things, if instead of loving them you avoid them, 
then there is proof that you have not attained the perfection of 
poverty of spirit." Rodriguez then goes on to describe the prac- 
tice of poverty in more detail. " The first point is that which 
Saint Ignatius proposes in his constitutions, when he says, ' Let 
no one use anything as if it were his private possession.' 'A 
religious person,' he says, ' ought in respect to all the things that 
he uses, to be like a statue which one may drape with clothing, 
but which feels no grief and makes no resistance when one 

1 Sainte-Beuve : Histoire de Port Royal, i. 346. 


strips it again. It is in this way that you should feel towards 
your clothes, your books, your cell, and everything else that 
you make use of ; if ordered to quit them, or to exchange them 
for others, have no more sorrow than if you were a statue being 
uncovered. In this way you will avoid using them as if they 
were your private possession. But if, when you give up your 
cell, or yield possession of this or that object or exchange it for 
another, you feel repugnance and are not like a statue, that 
shows that you view these things as if they were your private 

" And this is why our holy founder wished the superiors to 
test their monks somewhat as God tested Abraham, and to put 
their poverty and their obedience to trial, that by this means 
they may become acquainted with the degree of their virtue, 
and gain a chance to make ever farther progress in perfection, 
. . . making the one move out of his room when he finds it 
comfortable and is attached to it ; taking away from another a 
book of which he is fond ; or obliging a third to exchange his 
garment for a worse one. Otherwise we should end by acquir- 
ing a species of property in all these several objects, and little 
by little the wall of poverty that surrounds us and constitutes 
our principal defense would be thrown down. The ancient 
fathers of the desert used often thus to treat their companions. 
. . . Saint Dositheus, being sick-nurse, desired a certain knife, 
and asked Saint Dorotheus for it, not for his private use, but 
for employment in the infirmary of which he had charge. 
Whereupon Saint Dorotheus answered him : ' Ha ! Dositheus, 
so that knife pleases you so much ! Will you be the slave of a 
knife or the slave of Jesus Christ? Do you not blush with 
shame at wishing that a knife should be your master ? I will 
not let you touch it.' Which reproach and refusal had such 
an effect upon the holy disciple that since that time he never 
touched the knife again." . . . 

" Therefore, in our rooms," Father Rodriguez continues, 
" there must be no other furniture than a bed, a table, a bench, 
and a candlestick, things purely necessary, and nothing more. 
It is not allowed among us that our cells should be ornamented 
with pictures or aught else, neither armchairs, carpets, curtains, 


nor any sort of cabinet or bureau of any elegance. Neither 
is it allowed us to keep anything to eat, either for ourselves or 
for those who may come to visit us. We must ask permission 
to o-o to the refectory even for a glass of water ; and finally we 
may not keep a book in which we can write a line, or which we 
may take away with us. One cannot deny that thus we are in 
oreat poverty. But this poverty is at the same time a great 
repose and a great perfection. For it would be inevitable, in 
case a religious person were allowed to own superfluous posses- 
sions, that these things would greatly occupy his mind, be it to 
acquire them, to preserve them, or to increase them ; so that in 
not permitting us at all to own them, all these inconveniences 
are remedied. Among the various good reasons why the com- 
pany forbids secular persons to enter our cells, the principal 
one is that thus we may the easier be kept in poverty. After 
all, we are all men, and if we were to receive people of the 
world into our rooms, we should not have the strength to re- 
main within the bounds prescribed, but should at least wish to 
adorn them with some books to give the visitors a better opin- 
ion of our scholarship." 1 

Since Hindu fakirs, Buddhist monks, and Moham- 
medan dervishes unite with Jesuits and Franciscans in 
idealizing poverty as the loftiest individual state, it is 
worth while to examine into the spiritual grounds for 
such a seemingly unnatural opinion. And first, of those 
which lie closest to common human nature. 

The opposition between the men who have and the 
men who are is immemorial. Though the gentleman, in 
the old-fashioned sense of the man who is well born, has 
usually in point of fact been predaceous and reveled in 
lands and goods, yet he has never identified his essence 
with these possessions, but rather with the personal su- 
periorities, the courage, generosity, and pride supposed 
to be his birthright. To certain huckstering kinds of 

1 Rodriguez : Op. cit., Part iii., Treatise iii., chaps, vi., vii. 


consideration he thanked God he was forever inaccessi- 
ble, and if in life's vicissitudes he should become des- 
titute through their lack, he was glad to think that 
with his sheer valor he was all the freer to work out 
his salvation. " Wer nur selbst was hatte," says Les- 
sing's Tempelherr, in Nathan the Wise, " mein Gott, mein 
Gott, ich habe nichts ! " This ideal of the well-born man 
without possessions was embodied in knight-errantry and 
templardom ; and, hideously corrupted as it has always 
been, it still dominates sentimentally, if not practically, 
the military and aristocratic view of life. We glorify 
the soldier as the man absolutely unincumbered. Own- 
ing nothing but his bare life, and willing to toss that up 
at any moment when the cause commands him, he is the 
representative of unhampered freedom in ideal directions. 
The laborer who pays with his person day by day, and 
has no rights invested in the future, offers also much of 
this ideal detachment. Like the savage, he may make 
his bed wherever his right arm can support him, and 
from his simple and athletic attitude of observation, the 
property-owner seems buried and smothered in ignoble 
externalities and trammels, " wading in straw and rub- 
bish to his knees." The claims which things .make are 
corrupters of manhood, mortgages on the soul, and a 
drag anchor on our progress towards the empyrean. 

" Everything I meet with," writes Whitefield, " seems to 
carry this voice with it, * Go thou and preach the Gospel : 
be a pilgrim on earth ; have no party or certain dwelling place.' 
My heart echoes back, ' Lord Jesus, help me to do or suffer thy 
will. When thou seest me in danger of nestling, in pity 
in tender pity, put a thorn in my nest to prevent me from 
it.' " i 

1 R. Philip : The Life and Times of George Whitefield, London, 1842, 
p. 366. 


The loathing of ' capital ' with which our laboring 
classes to-day are growing more and more infected seems 
largely composed of this sound sentiment of antipathy 
for lives based on mere having. As an anarchist poet 
writes : 

" Not by accumulating riches, but by giving away that which 
you have, 

" Shall you become beautiful ; 

" You must undo the wrappings, not case yourself in fresh 
ones ; 

" Not by multiplying clothes shall you make your body sound 
and healthy, but rather by discarding them . . . 

" For a soldier who is going on a campaign does not seek what 
fresh furniture he can carry on his back, but rather what he 
can leave behind ; 

" Knowing well that every additional thing which he cannot 
freely use and handle is an impediment." * 

In short, lives based on having are less free than lives 
based either on doing or on being, and in the interest of 
action people subject to spiritual excitement throw away 
possessions as so many clogs. Only those who have no 
private interests can follow an ideal straight away. Sloth 
and cowardice creep in with every dollar or guinea we 
have to guard. When a brother novice came to Saint 
Francis, saying : " Father, it would be a great consola- 
tion to me to own a psalter, but even supposing that our 
general should concede to me this indulgence, still I 
should like also to have your consent," Francis put him 
off with the examples of Charlemagne, Roland, and Oliver, 
pursuing the infidels in sweat and labor, and finally dying 
on the field of battle. " So care not," he said, " for own- 
ing books and knowledge, but care rather for works of 
goodness." And when some weeks later the novice came 

1 Edward Carpenter : Towards Democracy, p. 3G2, abridged. 


again to talk of his craving for the psalter, Francis said : 
" After you have got your psalter you will crave a brevi- 
ary ; and after you have got your breviary you will sit 
in your stall like a grand prelate, and will say to your 
brother : ' Hand me my breviary.' . . . And thencefor- 
ward he denied all such requests, saying : A man pos- 
sesses of learning only so much as comes out of him in 
action, and a monk is a good preacher only so far as his 
deeds proclaim him such, for every tree is known by its 
fruits." * 

But beyond this more worthily athletic attitude in- 
volved in doing and being, there is, in the desire of not 
having, something profounder still, something related 
to that fundamental mystery of religious experience, the 
satisfaction found in absolute surrender to the larger 
power. So long as any secular safeguard is retained, so 
long as any residual prudential guarantee is clung to, so 
long the surrender is incomplete, the vital crisis is not 
passed, fear still stands sentinel, and mistrust of the 
divine obtains : we hold by two anchors, looking to God, 
it is true, after a fashion, but also holding by our proper 
machinations. In certain medical experiences we have 
the same critical point to overcome. A drunkard, or a 
morphine or cocaine maniac, offers himself to be cured. 
He appeals to the doctor to wean him from his enemy, 
but he dares not face blank abstinence. The tyrannical 
drug is still an anchor to windward : he hides supplies 
of it among his clothing; arranges secretly to have it 
smuggled in in case of need. Even so an incompletely 
regenerate man still trusts in his own expedients. His 
money is like the sleeping potion which the chronically 
wakeful patient keeps beside his bed ; he throws himself 
on God, but if he should need the other help, there it 

1 Speculum Perfectionis, ed. P. Sabatier, Paris, 1898, pp. 10, 13. 


will be also. Every one knows cases of this incomplete 
and ineffective desire for reform, drunkards whom, 
with all their self-reproaches and resolves, one perceives 
to be quite unwilling seriously to contemplate never being 
drunk again ! Really to give up anything on which we 
have relied, to give it up definitively, ' for good and all ' 
and forever, signifies one of those radical alterations of 
character which came under our notice hi the lectures on 
conversion. In it the inner man rolls over into an entirely 
different position of equilibrium, lives in a new centre 
of energy from this time on, and the turning-point and 
hinge of all such operations seems usually to involve the 
sincere acceptance of certain nakednesses and destitutions. 
Accordingly, throughout the annals of the saintly life, 
we find this ever-recurring note : Fling yourself upon 
God's providence without making any reserve whatever, 
take no thought for the morrow, sell all you have 
and give it to the poor, only when the sacrifice is 
ruthless and reckless will the higher safety really arrive. 
As a concrete example let me read a page from the 
biography of Antoinette Bourignon, a good woman, much 
persecuted in her day by both Protestants and Catholics, 
because she would not take her religion at second hand. 
When a young girl, in her father's house, 

" She spent whole nights in prayer, oft repeating : Lord, what 
wilt thou have me to do f And being one night in a most pro- 
found penitence, she said from the bottom of her heart : ' O 
my Lord ! What must I do to please thee ? For I have no- 
body to teach me. Speak to my soul and it will hear thee.' 
At that instant she heard, as if another had spoke within her : 
Forsake all earthly things. Separate thyself from the love of the 
creatures. Deny thyself. She was quite astonished, not under- 
standing this language, and mused long on these three points, 
thinking how she could fulfill them. She thought she could 
not live without earthly things, nor without loving the creatures, 


nor without loving herself. Yet she said, ' By thy Grace I will 
do it, Lord ! ' But when she would perforin her promise, she 
knew not where to begin. Having thought on the religious in 
monasteries, that they forsook all earthly things by being shut 
up in a cloister, and the love of themselves by subjecting of 
their wills, she asked leave of her father to enter into a cloister 
of the barefoot Carmelites, but he would not permit it, saying 
he would rather see her laid in her grave. This seemed to her 
a great cruelty, for she thought to find in the cloister the true 
Christians she had been seeking, but she found afterwards that 
he knew the cloisters better than she ; for after he had for- 
bidden her, and told her he would never permit her to be a 
religious, nor give her any money to enter there, yet she went 
to Father Laurens, the Director, and offered to serve in the 
monastery and work hard for her bread, and be content with 
little, if he would receive her. At which he smiled and said : 
That cannot be. We must have money to build ; we take no 
maids toithout money ; you must find the way to get it, else 
there is no entry here. 

" This astonished her greatly, and she was thereby undeceived 
as to the cloisters, resolving to forsake all company and live 
alone till it should please God to show her what she ought to 
do and whither to go. She asked always earnestly, ' When 
shall I be perfectly thine, O my God ? ' And she thought he 
still answered her, When thou shalt no longer possess any- 
thing, and shalt die to thyself. ' And where shall I do that, 
Lord ? ' He answered her, In the desert. This made so strong 
an impression on her soul that she aspired after this ; but being 
a maid of eighteen years only, she was afraid of unlucky chances, 
and was never used to travel, and knew no way. She laid aside 
all these doubts and said, ' Lord, thou wilt guide me how and 
where it shall please thee. It is for thee that I do it. I will 
lay aside my habit of a maid, and will take that of a hermit 
that I may pass unknown.' Having then secretly made ready 
this habit, while her parents thought to have married her, her 
father having promised her to a rich French merchant, she pre- 
vented the time, and on Easter evening, having cut her hair, 
put on the habit, and slept a little, she went out of her chamber 


about four in the morning, taking nothing but one penny to 
buy bread for that day. And it being said to her in the going 
out, Where is thy faith f in a penny t she threw it away, 
begging pardon of God for her fault, and saying, ' No, Lord, 
my faith is not in a penny, but in thee alone.' Thus she went 
away wholly delivered from the heavy burthen of the cares and 
good things of this world, and found her soul so satisfied that 
she no longer wished for anything upon earth, resting entirely 
upon God, with this only fear lest she should be discovered and 
be obliged to return home ; for she felt already more content in 
this poverty than she had done for all her life in all the delights 
of the world." 1 

The penny was a small financial safeguard, but an effec- 
tive spiritual obstacle. Not till it was thrown away could 
the character settle into the new equilibrium completely. 

Over and above the mystery of self-surrender, there are 
in the cult of poverty other religious mysteries. There is 

1 An Apology for M. Antonia Bourignon, London, 1699, pp. 269, 270, 

Another example from Starbuck's MS. collection : 

" At a meeting held at six the next morning, I heard a man relate his 
experience. He said : The Lord asked him if he would confess Christ 
among the quarrymen with whom he worked, and he said he would. Then 
he asked him if he would give up to be used of the Lord the four hundred 
dollars he had laid up, and he said he would, and thus the Lord saved him. 
The thought came to me at once that I had never made a real consecration 
either of myself or of my property to the Lord, but had always tried to 
serve the Lord in my way. Now the Lord asked me if I would serve him 
in his way, and go out alone and penniless if he so ordered. The question 
was pressed home, and I must decide : To forsake all and have him, or have 
all and lose him ! I soon decided to take him ; and the blessed assurance 
came, that he had taken me for his own, and my joy was full. I returned 
home from the meeting with feelings as simple as a child. I thought all 
would be glad to hear of the joy of the Lord that possessed me, and so I 
began to tell the simple story. But to my great surprise, the pastors (for 
I attended meetings in three churches) opposed the experience and said it 
was fanaticism, and one told the members of his church to shun those that 
professed it, and I soon found that my foes were those of my own house- 


the mystery of veracity : " Naked came I into the world," 
etc., whoever first said that, possessed this mystery. 
My own bare entity must fight the battle shams can- 
not save me. There is also the mystery of democracy, 
or sentiment of the equality before God of all his crea- 
tures. This sentiment (which seems in general to have 
been more widespread in Mohammedan than in Christian 
lands) tends to nullify man's usual acquisitiveness. Those 
who have it spurn dignities and honors, privileges and 
advantages, preferring, as I said in a former lecture, to 
grovel on the common level before the face of God. It 
is not exactly the sentiment of humility, though it comes 
so close to it in practice. It is humanity, rather, refusing 
to enjoy anything that others do not share. A profound 
moralist, writing of Christ's saying, ' Sell all thou hast 
and follow me,' proceeds as follows : 

" Christ may have meant : If you love mankind absolutely 
you will as a result not care for any possessions whatever, aud 
this seems a very likely proposition. But it is one thing to 
believe that a proposition is probably true ; it is another thing 
to see it as a fact. If you loved mankind as Christ loved them, 
you would see his conclusion as a fact. It would be obvious. 
You would sell your goods, and they would be no loss to you. 
These truths, while literal to Christ, and to any mind that has 
Christ's love for mankind, become parables to lesser natures. 
There are in every generation people who, beginning innocently, 
with no predetermined intention of becoming saints, find them- 
selves drawn into the vortex by their interest in helping man- 
kind, and by the understanding that comes from actually doing 
it. The abandonment of their old mode of life is like dust in 
the balance. It is done gradually, incidentally, imperceptibly. 
Thus the whole question of the abandonment of luxury is no 
question at all, but a mere incident to another question, namely, 
the degree to which we abandon ourselves to the remorseless 
logic of our love for others." 1 

1 J. J. Chapman, in the Political Nursery, vol. iv. p. 4, April, 1900, 


But in all these matters of sentiment one must have 
' been there ' one's self in order to understand them. No 
American can ever attain to understanding the loyalty 
of a Briton towards his king, of a German towards his 
emperor ; nor can a Briton or German ever understand 
the peace of heart of an American in having no king, 
no Kaiser, no spurious nonsense, between him and the 
common God of all. If sentiments as simple as these 
are mysteries which one must receive as gifts of birth, 
how much more is this the case with those subtler reli- 
gious sentiments which we have been considering ! One 
can never fathom an emotion or divine its dictates by 
standing outside of it. In the glowing hour of excite- 
ment, however, all incomprehensibilities are solved, and 
what was so enigmatical from without becomes transpar- 
ently obvious. Each emotion obeys a logic of its own, 
and makes deductions which no other logic can draw. 
Piety and charity live in a different universe from worldly 
lusts and fears, and form another centre of energy alto- 
gether. As in a supreme sorrow lesser vexations may 
become a consolation ; as a supreme love may turn minor 
sacrifices into gain ; so a supreme trust may render com- 
mon safeguards odious, and in certain glows of unselfish 
excitement it may appear unspeakably mean to retain 
one's hold of personal possessions. The only sound plan, 
if we are ourselves outside the pale of such emotions, is 
to observe as well as we are able those who feel them, 
and to record faithfully what we observe ; and this, I 
need hardly say, is what I have striven to do in these 
last two descriptive lectures, which I now hope will have 
covered the ground sufficiently for our present needs. 



WE have now passed in review the more important 
of the phenomena which are regarded as fruits of 
genuine religion and characteristics of men who are de- 
vout. To-day we have to change our attitude from that 
of description to that of appreciation ; we have to ask 
whether the fruits in question can help us to judge the 
absolute value of what religion adds to human life. Were 
I to parody Kant, I should say that a ' Critique of pure 
Saintliness ' must be our theme. 

If, in turning to this theme, we could descend upon 
our subject from above like Catholic theologians, with 
our fixed definitions of man and man's perfection and our 
positive dogmas about God, we should have an easy time 
of it. Man's perfection would be the fulfillment of his 
end ; and his end would be union with his Maker. That 
union could be pursued by him along three paths, active, 
purgative, and contemplative, respectively ; and progress 
along either path would be a simple matter to measure by 
the application of a limited number of theological and 
moral conceptions and definitions. The absolute signifi- 
cance and value of any bit of religious experience we 
might hear of would thus be given almost mathematically 
into our hands. 

If convenience were everything, we ought now to grieve 
at finding ourselves cut off from so admirably convenient 
a method as this. But we did cut ourselves off from it 
deliberately in those remarks which you remember we 


made, in our first lecture, about the empirical method ; 
and it must be confessed that after that act of renun- 
ciation we can never hope for clean-cut and scholastic 
results. We cannot divide man sharply into an animal 
and a rational part. We cannot distinguish natural from 
supernatural effects ; nor among the latter know which 
are favors of God, and which are counterfeit operations 
of the demon. We have merely to collect things together 
without any special a priori theological system, and out 
of an aggregate of piecemeal judgments as to the value 
of this and that experience judgments in which our 
general philosophic prejudices, our instincts, and our 
connnon sense are our only guides decide that on the 
lohole one type of religion is approved by its fruits, and 
another type condemned. ' On the whole,' I fear we 
shall never escape complicity with that qualification, so 
dear to your practical man, so repugnant to your system- 
atizer ! 

I also fear that as I make this frank confession, I may 
seem to some of you to throw our compass overboard, and 
to adopt caprice as our pilot. Skepticism or wayward 
choice, you may think, can be the only results of such 
a formless method as I have taken up. A few remarks 
in deprecation of such an opinion, and in farther expla- 
nation of the empiricist principles which I profess, may 
therefore appear at this point to be in place. 

Abstractly, it would seem illogical to try to measure 
the worth of a religion's fruits in merely human terms 
of value. How can you measure their worth without 
considering whether the God really exists who is sup- 
posed to inspire them? If he really exists, then all the 
conduct instituted by men to meet his wants must neces- 
sarily be a reasonable fruit of his religion, it would be 


unreasonable only in case lie did not exist. If, for in- 
stance, you were to condemn a religion of human or 
animal sacrifices by virtue of your subjective sentiments, 
and if all the while a deity were really there demanding 
such sacrifices, you would be making a theoretical mistake 
by tacitly assuming that the deity must be non-existent ; 
you would be setting up a theology of your own as much 
as if you were a scholastic philosopher. 

To this extent, to the extent of disbelieving peremp- 
torily in certain types of deity, I frankly confess that 
we must be theologians. If disbeliefs can be said to 
constitute a theology, then the prejudices, instincts, and 
common sense which I chose as our guides make theo- 
logical partisans of us whenever they make certain beliefs 

But such common-sense prejudices and instincts are 
themselves the fruit of an empirical evolution. Nothing 
is more striking than the secular alteration that goes on 
in the moral and religious tone of men, as their insight 
into nature and their social arrangements progressively 
develop. After an interval of a few generations the 
mental climate proves. unfavorable to notions of the deity 
which at an earlier date were perfectly satisfactory : the 
older gods have fallen below the common secular level, 
and can no longer be believed in. To-day a deity who 
should require bleeding sacrifices to placate him would 
be too sanguinary to be taken seriously. Even if power- 
ful historical credentials were put forward in his favor, 
we would not look at them. Once, on the contrary, 
his cruel appetites were of themselves credentials. They 
positively recommended him to men's imaginations in 
ages when such coarse signs of power were respected 
and no others could be understood. Such deities then 
were worshiped because such fruits were relished. 


Doubtless historic accidents always played some later 
part, but the original factor in fixing the figure of the 
gods must always have been psychological. The deity 
to whom the prophets, seers, and devotees who founded 
the particular cult bore witness was worth something to 
them personally. They could use him. He guided their 
imagination, warranted their hopes, and controlled their 
will, or else they required him as a safeguard against 
the demon and a curber of other people's crimes. In 
any case, they chose him for the value of the fruits he 
seemed to them to yield. So soon as the fruits began 
to seem quite worthless ; so soon as they conflicted with 
indispensable human ideals, or thwarted too extensively 
other values ; so soon as they appeared childish, contempt- 
ible, or immoral when reflected on, the deity grew dis- 
credited, and was erelong neglected and forgotten. It 
was in this way that the Greek and Roman gods ceased 
to be believed in by educated pagans ; it is thus that we 
ourselves judge of the Hindu, Buddhist, and Mohamme- 
dan theologies ; Protestants have so dealt with the Catho- 
lic notions of deity, and liberal Protestants with older 
Protestant notions ; it is thus that Chinamen judge of 
us, and that all of us now living will be judged by our 
descendants. When we cease to admire or approve what 
the definition of a deity implies, we end by deeming that 
deity incredible. 

Few historic changes are more curious than these mu- 
tations of theological opinion. The monarchical type of 
sovereignty w r as, for example, so ineradicably planted in 
the mind of our own forefathers that a dose of cruelty and 
arbitrariness in their deity seems positively to have been 
required by their imagination. They called the cruelty 
i retributive justice,' and a God without it would cer- 
tainly have struck them as not ' sovereign ' enough. But 

G\oc^~ eWv^v-*^ vvw* ^3 


to-day we abhor the very notion of eternal suffering in- 
flicted ; and that arbitrary dealing-out of salvation and 
damnation to selected individuals, of which Jonathan 
Edwards could persuade himself that he had not only a 
conviction, but a ' delightful conviction,' as of a doctrine 
' exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet,' appears to us, if 
sovereignly anything, sovereignly irrational and mean. 
Not only the cruelty, but the paltriness of character of 
the gods believed in by earlier centuries also strikes later 
centuries with surprise. We shall see examples of it from 
the annals of Catholic saintship which make us rub our 
Protestant eyes. Ritual worship in general appears to the 
modern transcendentalist, as well as to the ultra-puritanic 
type of mind, as if addressed to a deity of an almost ab- 
surdly childish character, taking delight in toy-shop fur- 
niture, tapers and tinsel, costume and mumbling and mum- 
mery, and finding his ' glory ' incomprehensibly enhanced 
thereby ; j ust as on the other hand the formless spa- 
ciousness of pantheism appears quite empty to ritualistic 
natures, and the gaunt theism of evangelical sects seems 
intolerably bald and chalky and bleak. Luther, says 
Emerson, would have cut off his right hand rather than 
nail his theses to the door at Wittenberg, if he had sup- 
posed that they were destined to lead to the pale nega- 
tions of Boston Unitarianism. 

So far, then, although we are compelled, whatever may 
be our pretensions to empiricism, to employ some sort of 
a standard of theological probability of our own whenever 
we assume to estimate the fruits of other men's religion, 
yet this very standard has been begotten out of the drift 
of common life. It is the voice of human experience 
within us, judging and condemning all gods that stand 
athwart the pathway along which it feels itself to be ad- 
vancing. Experience, if we take it in the largest sense, is 


thus the parent of those disbeliefs which, it was charged, 
were inconsistent with the experiential method. The 
inconsistency, you see, is immaterial, and the charge may 
be neglected. 

If we pass from disbeliefs to positive beliefs, it seems 
to me that there is not even a formal inconsistency to be 
laid against our method. The gods we stand by are the 
gods we need and can use, the gods whose demands on us 
are reinforcements of our demands on ourselves and on 
one another. What I then propose to do is, briefly 
stated, to test saintliness by common sense, to use human 
standards to help us decide how far the religious life 
commends itself as an ideal kind of human activity. 
If it commends itself, then any theological beliefs that 
may inspire it, in so far forth will stand accredited. If 
not, then they will be discredited, and all without refer- 
ence to anything but human working principles. It is 
but the elimination of the humanly unfit, and the survival 
of the humanly fittest, applied to religious beliefs; and 
if we look at history candidly and without prejudice, we 
have to admit that no religion has ever in the long run 
established or proved itself in any other way. Religions 
have approved themselves ; they have ministered to sun- 
dry vital needs which they found reigning. When they 
violated other needs too strongly, or when other faiths 
came which served the same needs better, the first reli- 
gions were supplanted. 

The needs were always many, and the tests were never 
sharp. So the reproach of vagueness and subjectivity 
and ' on the whole '-ness, which can with perfect legiti- 
macy be addressed to the empirical method as we are 
forced to use it, is after all a reproach to which the entire 
life of man in dealing with these matters is obnoxious. 
No religion has ever yet owed its prevalence to i apodictic 


certainty. 1 In a later lecture I will ask "whether objec- 
tive certainty can ever be added by theological reasoning 
to a religion that already empirically prevails. 

One word, also, about the reproach that in following 
this sort of an empirical method we are handing ourselves 
over to systematic skepticism. 

Since it is impossible to deny secular alterations in our 
sentiments and needs, it would be absurd to affirm that 
one's own age of the world can be beyond correction by 
the next age. Skepticism cannot, therefore, be ruled out 
by any set of thinkers as a possibility against which their 
conclusions are secure ; and no empiricist ought to claim 
exemption from this universal liability. But to admit 
one's liability to correction is one thing, and to embark 
upon a sea of wanton doubt is another. Of willfully 
playing into the hands of skepticism we cannot be ac- 
cused. He who acknowledges the imperfectness of his 
instrument, and makes allowance for it in discussing his 
observations, is in a much better position for gaining 
truth than if he claimed his instrument to be infallible. 
Or is dogmatic or scholastic theology less doubted in 
point of fact for claiming, as it does, to be in point of 
right undoubtable ? And if not, what command over 
truth would this kind of theology really lose if, instead 
of absolute certainty, she only claimed reasonable proba- 
bility for her conclusions ? If we claim only reasona- 
ble probability, it will be as much as men who love 
the truth can ever at any given moment hope to have 
within their grasp. Pretty surely it will be more than we 
could have had, if we were unconscious of our liability 
to err. 

Nevertheless, dogmatism will doubtless continue to con- 
demn us for this confession. The mere outward form of 


inalterable certainty is so precious to some minds that to 
renounce it explicitly is for them out of the question. 
They will claim it even where the facts most patently 
pronounce its folly. But the safe thing is surely to recog- 
nize that all the insights of creatures of a day like our- 
selves must be provisional. The wisest of critics is an 
altering being, subject to the better insight of the mor- 
row, and right at any moment, only ' up to date ' and 
' on the whole.' When larger ranges of truth open, it 
is surely best to be able to open ourselves to their recep- 
tion, unfettered by our previous pretensions. " Heartily 
know, when half-gods go, the gods arrive." 

The fact of diverse judgments about religious phenom- 
ena is therefore entirely unescapable, whatever may be 
one's own desire to attain the irreversible. But apart 
from that fact, a more fundamental question awaits us, 
the question whether men's opinions ought to be ex- 
pected to be absolutely uniform in this field. Ought all 
men to have the same religion ? Ought they to approve 
the same fruits and follow the same leadings ? Are they 
so like in their inner needs that, for hard and soft, for 
proud and humble, for strenuous and lazy, for healthy- 
minded and despairing, exactly the same religious incen- 
tives are required ? Or are different functions in the 
organism of humanity allotted to different types of man, 
so that some may really be the better for a religion of 
consolation and reassurance, whilst others are better for 
one of terror and reproof ? It might conceivably be so ; 
and we shall, I think, more and more suspect it to be so 
as we go on. And if it be so, how can any possible 
judge or critic help being biased in favor of the religion 
by which his own needs are best met ? He aspires to im- 
partiality ; but he is too close to the struggle not to be 
to some degree a participant, and he is sure to approve 


most warmly those fruits of piety in others which taste 
most good and prove most nourishing to him. 

I am well aware of how anarchic much of what I 
say may sound. Expressing myself thus abstractly and 
briefly, I may seem to despair of the very notion of 
truth. But I beseech you to reserve your judgment until 
we see it applied to the details which lie before us. I do 
indeed disbelieve that we or any other mortal men can 
attain on a given day to absolutely incorrigible and unim- 
provable truth about such matters of fact as those with 
which religions deal. But I reject this dogmatic ideal 
not out of a perverse delight in intellectual instability. I 
am no lover of disorder and doubt as such. Rather do 
I fear to lose truth by this pretension to possess it already 
wholly. That we can gain more and more of it by mov- 
ing always in the right direction, I believe as much as 
any one, and I hope to bring you all to my way of think- 
ing before the termination of these lectures. Till then, 
do not, I pray you, harden your minds irrevocably against 
the empiricism which I profess. 

I will waste no more words, then, in abstract justifica- 
tion of my method, but seek immediately to use it upon 
the facts. 

In critically judging of the value of religious phe- 
nomena, it is very important to insist on the distinction 
between religion as an individual personal function, and 
religion as an institutional, corporate, or tribal product. 
I drew this distinction, you may remember, in my second 
lecture. The word ' religion,' as ordinarily used, is equivo- 
cal. A survey of history shows us that, as a rule, reli- 
gious geniuses attract disciples, and produce groups of 
sympathizers. When these groups get strong enough to 
1 organize ' themselves, they become ecclesiastical institu- 


tions with corporate ambitions of their own. The spirit 
of politics and the lust of dogmatic rule are then apt to 
enter and to contaminate the originally innocent thing ; 
so that when we hear the word t religion ' nowadays, we 
think inevitably of some ' church ' or other ; and to some 
persons the word ' church ' suggests so much hypocrisy 
and tyranny and meanness and tenacity of superstition 
that in a wholesale undiscerning way they glory in say- 
ing that they are ' down ' on religion altogether. Even 
we who belong to churches do not exempt other churches 
than our own from the general condemnation. 

But in this course of lectures ecclesiastical institutions 
hardly concern us at all. The religious experience which 
we are studying is that which lives itself out within the 
private breast. First-hand individual experience of this 
kind has always appeared as a heretical sort of innova- 
tion to those who witnessed its birth. Naked comes it 
into the world and lonely ; and it has always, for a time 
at least, driven him who had it into the wilderness, often 
into the literal wilderness out of doors, where the Bud- 
dha, Jesus, Mohammed, St. Francis, George Fox, and so 
many others had to go. George Fox expresses well this 
isolation ; and I can do no better at this point than read 
to you a page from his Journal, referring to the period 
of his youth when religion began to ferment within him 

" I fasted much," Fox says, " walked abroad in solitary places 
many clays, and often took my Bible, and sat in hollow trees 
and lonesome places until night came on ; and frequently in 
the night walked mournfully about by myself; for I was a 
man of sorrows in the time of the first workings of the Lord 
in me. 

" During all this time I was never joined in profession of 
religion with any, but gave up myself to the Lord, having for- 


saken all evil company, taking leave of father and mother, and 
all other relations, and traveled up and down as a stranger on 
the earth, which way the Lord inclined my heart ; taking a 
chamber to myself in the town where I came, and tarrying 
sometimes more, sometimes less in a place : for I durst not stay 
long in a place, being afraid both of professor and profane, lest, 
being a tender young man, I should be hurt by conversing much 
with either. For which reason I kept much as a stranger, seek- 
ing heavenly wisdom and getting knowledge from the Lord ; 
and was brought off from outward things, to rely on the Lord 
alone. As I had forsaken the priests, so I left the separate 
preachers also, and those called the most experienced people ; 
for I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my 
condition. And when all my hopes in them and in all men were 
gone so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell 
what to do ; then, oh then, I heard a voice which said, ' There 
is one, even Jesus Christ, that can speak to thy condition.' 
When I heard it, my heart did leap for joy. Then the Lord 
let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak 
to my condition. I had not fellowship with any people, priests, 
nor professors, nor any sort of separated people. I was afraid 
of all carnal talk and talkers, for I could see nothing but cor- 
ruptions. When I was in the deep, under all shut up, I could 
not believe that I should ever overcome ; my troubles, my sor- 
rows, and my temptations were so great that I often thought I 
should have despaired, I was so tempted. But when Christ 
opened to me how he was tempted by the same devil, and had 
overcome him, and had bruised his head ; and that through him 
and his power, life, grace, and spirit, I should overcome also, I 
had confidence in him. If I had had a king's diet, palace, and 
attendance, all would have been as nothing; for nothing gave 
me comfort but the Lord by his power. I saw professors, 
priests, and people were whole and at ease in that condition 
which was my misery, and they loved that which I would have 
been rid of. But the Lord did stay my desires upon himself, 
and my care was cast upon him alone." * 

1 George Fox : Journal, Philadelphia, 1800, pp. 59-61, abridged. 


A genuine first-hand religious experience like this is 
bound to be a heterodoxy to its witnesses, the prophet 
appearing as a mere lonely madman. If his doctrine 
prove contagious enough to spread to any others, it be- 
comes a definite and labeled heresy. But if it then still 
prove contagious enough to triumph over persecution, it 
becomes itself an orthodoxy ; and when a religion has 
become an orthodoxy, its day of inwardness is over : the 
spring is dry ; the faithful live at second hand exclusively 
and stone the prophets in their turn. The new church, 
in spite of whatever human goodness it may foster, can 
be henceforth counted on as a staunch ally in every at- 
tempt to stifle the spontaneous religious spirit, and to stop 
all later bubblings of the fountain from which in purer 
days it drew its own supply of inspiration. Unless, in- 
deed, by adopting new movements of the spirit it can 
make capital out of them and use them for its selfish 
corporate designs ! Of protective action of this politic 
sort, promptly or tardily decided on, the dealings of the 
Roman ecclesiasticism with many individual saints and 
prophets yield examples enough for our instruction. 

The plain fact is that men's minds are built, as has been 
often said, in water-tight compartments. Religious after a 
fashion, they yet have many other things in them beside 
their religion, and unholy entanglements and associations 
inevitably obtain. The basenesses so commonly charged 
to religion's account are thus, almost all of them, not 
chargeable at all to religion proper, but rather to reli- 
gion's wicked practical partner, the spirit of corporate 
dominion. And the bigotries are most of them in their 
turn chargeable to religion's wicked intellectual partner, 
the spirit of dogmatic dominion, the passion for laying 
down the law in the form of an absolutely closed-in theo- 
retic system. The ecclesiastical spirit in general is the 


sum of these two spirits of dominion ; and I beseech 
you never to confound the phenomena of mere tribal 
or corporate psychology which it presents with those 
manifestations of the purely interior life which are the 
exclusive object of our study. The baiting of Jews, 
the hunting of Albigenses and Waldenses, the stoning 
of Quakers and ducking of Methodists, the murdering 
of Mormons and the massacring of Armenians, express 
much rather that aboriginal human neophobia, that pug- 
nacity of which we all share the vestiges, and that inborn 
hatred of the alien and of eccentric and non-conforming: 
men as aliens, than they express the positive piety of the 
various perpetrators. Piety is the mask, the inner force 
is tribal instinct. You believe as little as I do, in spite 
of the Christian unction with which the German emperor 
addressed his troops upon their way to China, that the 
conduct which he suggested, and in which other Christian 
armies went beyond them, had anything whatever to do 
with the interior religious life of those concerned in the 

Well, no more for past atrocities than for this atrocity 
should we make piety responsible. At most we may 
blame piety for not availing to check our natural passions, 
and sometimes for supplying them with hypocritical pre- 
texts. But hypocrisy also imposes obligations, and with 
the pretext usually couples some restriction ; and when 
the passion gust is over, the piety may bring a reaction 
of repentance which the irreligious natural man would 
not have shown. 

For many of the historic aberrations which have been 
laid to her charge, religion as such, then, is not to blame. 
Yet of the charge that over-zealousness or fanaticism is 
one of her liabilities we cannot wholly acquit her, so I 
will next make a remark upon that point. But I will 


preface it by a preliminary remark which connects itself 
with much that follows. 

Our survey of the phenomena of saintliness has un- 
questionably produced in your minds an impression of 
extravagance. Is it necessary, some of you have asked, 
as one example after another came before us, to be quite 
so fantastically good as that ? We who have no vocation 
for the extremer ranges of sanctity will surely be let oil' 
at the last day if our humility, asceticism, and devout- 
ness prove of a less convulsive sort. This practically 
amounts to saying that much that it is legitimate to ad- 
mire in this field need nevertheless not be imitated, and 
that religious phenomena, like all other human phenom- 
ena, are subject to the law of the golden mean. Political 
reformers accomplish their successive tasks in the his- 
tory of nations by being blind for the time to other 
causes. Great schools of art work out the effects which 
it is their mission to reveal, at the cost of a one-sidedness 
for which other schools must make amends. We accept a 
John Howard, a Mazzini, a Botticelli, a Michael Angelo, 
with a kind of indulgence. We are glad they existed to 
show us that way, but we are glad there are also other 
ways of seeing and taking life. So of many of the 
saints whom we have looked at. We are proud of a 
human nature that could be so passionately extreme, but 
we shrink from advising others to follow the example. 
The conduct we blame ourselves for not following lies 
nearer to the middle line of human effort. It is less 
dependent on particular beliefs and doctrines. It is 
such as wears well in different ages, such as under differ- 
ent skies all judges are able to commend. 

The fruits of religion, in other words, are, like all 
human products, liable to corruption by excess. Common 

VW<--*^ - C <t*^v*v \" 


sense must judge them. It need not blame the votary; 
but it may be able to praise him only conditionally, as 
one who acts faithfully according to his lights. He 
shows us heroism in one way, but the unconditionally 
good way is that for which no indulgence need be asked. 
We find that error by excess is exemplified by every 
saintly virtue. Excess, in human faculties, means usually 
one-sidedness or want of balance ; for it is hard to im- 
agine an essential faculty too strong, if only other facul- 
ties equally strong be there to cooperate with it in action. 
Strong affections need a strong will ; strong active pow- 
ers need a strong intellect ; strong intellect needs strong 
sympathies, to keep life steady. If the balance exist, no 
one faculty can possibly be too strong we only get the 
stronger all-round character. In the life of saints, tech- 
nically so called, the spiritual faculties are strong, but 
what gives the impression of extravagance proves usually, 
on examination, to be a relative deficiency of intellect. 
Spiritual excitement takes pathological forms whenever 
other interests are too few and the intellect too narrow. 
We find this exemplified by all the saintly attributes in 
turn devout love of God, purity, charity, asceticism, all 
may lead astray. I will run over these virtues in succes- 

First of all let us take Devoutness. When unbalanced, 
one of its vices is called Fanaticism. Fanaticism (when 
not a mere expression of ecclesiastical ambition) is only 
loyalty carried to a convulsive extreme. When an in- 
tensely loyal and narrow mind is once grasped by the 
feeling that a certain superhuman person is worthy of its 
exclusive devotion, one of the first things that happens 
is that it idealizes the devotion itself. To adequately 
realize the merits of the idol gets to be considered the 


one great merit of the worshiper ; and the sacrifices and 
servilities by which savage tribesmen have from time 
immemorial exhibited their faithfulness to chieftains are 
now outbid in favor of the deity. Vocabularies are ex- 
hausted and languages altered in the attempt to praise 
him enough ; death is looked on as gain if it attract his 
grateful notice ; and the personal attitude of being his 
devotee becomes what one might almost call a new and 
exalted kind of professional specialty within the tribe. 1 
The legends that gather round the lives of holy persons 
are fruits of this impulse to celebrate and glorify. The 
Buddha 2 and Mohammed 3 and their companions and 
many Christian saints are incrusted with a heavy jewelry 

1 Christian saints have had their specialties of devotion, Saint Francis to 
Christ's wounds ; Saint Anthony of Padua to Christ's childhood ; Saint 
Bernard to his humanity ; Saint Teresa to Saint Joseph, etc. The Shi-ite 
Mohammedans venerate Ali, the Prophet's son-in-law, instead of Abu-bekr, 
his brother-in-law. Vambe'ry describes a dervish whom he met in Persia, 
"who had solemnly vowed, thirty years before, that he would never em- 
ploy his organs of speech otherwise but in uttering, everlastingly, the name 
of his favorite, Ali, Ali. He thus wished to signify to the world that he 
was the most devoted partisan of that Ali who had been dead a thousand 
years. In his own home, speaking with his wife, children, and friends, no 
other word but ' Ali ! ' ever passed his lips. If he wanted food or drink or 
anything else, he expressed his wants still by repeating ' Ali ! ' Begging or 
buying at the bazaar, it was always ' Ali ! ' Treated ill or generously, he 
would still harp on his monotonous ' Ali ! ' Latterly his zeal assumed such 
tremendous proportions that, like a madman, he would race, the whole day, 
up and down the streets of the town, throwing his stick high up into the 
air, and shriek out, all the while, at the top of his voice, ' Ali ! ' This der- 
vish was venerated by everybody as a saint, and received everywhere with 
the greatest distinction." Arminius Vambe'ry, his Life and Adventures, 
written by Himself, London, 1889, p. 69. On the anniversary of the death 
of Hussein, Ali's son, the Shi-ite Moslems still make the air resound with 
cries of his name and Ali's. 

2 Compare H. C. Warren : Buddhism in Translation, Cambridge, U. S., 
1898, passim. 

3 Compare J. L. Merrick : The Life and Religion of Mohammed, as 
contained in the Sheeah traditions of the Hyat-ul-Kuloob, Boston, 1850, 


of anecdotes which are meant to be honorific, but are 
simply dbgeschmackt and silly, and form a touching 
expression of man's misguided propensity to praise. 

An immediate consequence of this condition of mind 
is jealousy for the deity's honor. How can the devotee 
show his loyalty better than by sensitiveness in this re- 
gard ? The slightest affront or neglect must be resented, 
the deity's enemies must be put to shame. In exceed- 
ingly narrow minds and active wills, such a care may 
become an engrossing preoccupation ; and crusades have 
been preached and massacres instigated for no other rea- 
son than to remove a fancied slight upon the God. 
Theologies representing the gods as mindful of their 
glory, and churches with imperialistic policies, have con- 
spired to fan this temper to a glow, so that intoler- 
ance and persecution have come to be vices associated 
by some of us inseparably with the saintly mind. They 
are unquestionably its besetting sins. The saintly tem- 
per is a moral temper, and a moral temper has often 
to be cruel. It is a partisan temper, and that is cruel. 
Between his own and Jehovah's enemies a David knows 
no difference ; a Catherine of Siena, panting to stop the 
warfare among Christians which was the scandal of her 
epoch, can think of no better method of union among 
them than a crusade to massacre the Turks ; Luther 
finds no word of protest or regret over the atrocious tor- 
tures with which the Anabaptist leaders were put to 
death ; and a Cromwell praises the Lord for delivering 
his enemies into his hands for ' execution.' Politics 
come in in all such cases ; but piety finds the partnership 
not quite unnatural. So, when ' freethinkers ' tell us that 
religion and fanaticism are twins, we cannot make an 
unqualified denial of the charge. 

Fanaticism must then be inscribed on the wrong side 


of religion's account, so long as the religious person's 
intellect is on the stage which the despotic kind of God 
satisfies. But as soon as the God is represented as less 
intent on his own honor and glory, it ceases to be a 

Fanaticism is found only where the character is mas- 
terful and aggressive. In gentle characters, where de- 
voutness is intense and the intellect feeble, we have 
an imaginative absorption in the love of God to the 
exclusion of all practical human interests, which, though 
innocent enough, is too one-sided to be admirable. A 
mind too narrow has room but for one kind of affection. 
When the love of God takes possession of such a mind, 
it expels all human loves and human uses. There is no 
English name for such a sweet excess of devotion, so I 
will refer to it as a theopathic condition. 

The blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque may serve as an 

"To be loved here upon the earth," her recent biographer 
exclaims : " to be loved by a noble, elevated, distinguished 
being ; to be loved with fidelity, with devotion, what en- 
chantment ! But to be loved by God ! and loved by him to 
distraction [aime jusqii'a la folie] ! Margaret melted away 
with love at the thought of such a thing. Like Saint Philip 
of Neri in former times, or like Saint Francis Xavier, she said 
to God : ' Hold back, O my God, these torrents which over- 
whelm me, or else enlarge my capacity for their reception.' " 1 

The most signal proofs of God's love which Margaret Mary 
received were her hallucinations of sight, touch, and hearing, 
and the most signal in turn of these were the revelations of 
Christ's sacred heart, " surrounded with rays more brilliant 
than the Sun, and transparent like a crystal. The wound 
which he received on the cross visibly appeared upon it. There 

1 Bougaud : Hist, de la bienheureuse Marguerite Marie, Paris, 1894, 
p. 145. 


was a crown of thorns round about this divine Heart, and a 
cross above it." At the same time Christ's voice told her that, 
unable longer to contain the flames of his love for mankind, he 
had chosen her by a miracle to spread the knowledge of them. 
He thereupon took out her mortal heart, placed it inside of his 
own and inflamed it, and then replaced it in her breast, adding : 
" Hitherto thou hast taken the name of my slave, hereafter 
thou shalt be called the well-beloved disciple of my Sacred 

In a later vision the Saviour revealed to her in detail the 
4 great design ' which he wished to establish through her instru- 
mentality. " I ask of thee to bring it about that every first 
Friday after the week of holy Sacrament shall be made into 
a special holy day for honoring my Heart by a general com- 
munion and by services intended to make honorable amends for 
the indignities which it has received. And I promise thee that 
my Heart will dilate to shed with abundance the influences of 
its love upon all those who pay to it these honors, or who 
bring it about that others do the same." 

" This revelation," says Mgr. Bougaud, " is unques- 
tionably the most important of all the revelations which 
have illumined the Church since that of the Incarnation 
and of the Lord's Supper. . . . After the Eucharist, the 
supreme effort of the Sacred Heart." 1 Well, what were 
its good fruits for Margaret Mary's life? Apparently 
little else but sufferings and prayers and absences of 
mind and swoons and ecstasies. She became increas- 
ingly useless about the convent, her absorption in Christ's 

" which grew upon her daily, rendering her more and more in- 
capable of attending to external duties. They tried her in the 
infrrmary, but without much success, although her kindness, zeal, 
and devotion were without bounds, and her charity rose to acts 
of such a heroism that our readers would not bear the recital 

1 Bougaud : Hist, de la bienheureuse Marguerite Marie, Paris, 1894, 
pp. 365, 241. 


of them. They tried her in the kitchen, but were forced to give 
it up as hopeless everything dropped out of her hands. The 
admirable humility with which she made amends for her clum- 
siness could not prevent this from being prejudicial to the 
order and regularity which must always reign in a community. 
They put her in the school, where the little girls cherished her, 
and cut pieces out of her clothes [for relics] as if she were 
already a saint, but where she was too absorbed inwardly to 
pay the necessary attention. Poor dear sister, even less after 
her visions than before them was she a denizen of earth, and 
they had to leave her in her heaven." 1 

Poor dear sister, indeed ! Amiable and good, but so 
feeble of intellectual outlook that it would be too much 
to ask of us, with our Protestant and modern education, 
to feel anything but indulgent pity for the kind of saint- 
ship which she embodies. A lower example still of theo- 
pathic saintliness is that of Saint Gertr^e, a Benedic- 
tine nun of the thirteenth century, whose i Revelations,' 
a well-known mystical authority, consist mainly of proofs 
of Christ's partiality for her undeserving person. Assur- 
ances of his love, intimacies and caresses and compli- 
ments of the most absurd and puerile sort, addressed by 
Christ to Gertrude as an individual, form the tissue of 
this paltry-minded recital. 2 In reading such a narrative, 

1 Bougaud : Op. cit., p. 267. 

2 Examples : "Suffering from a headache, she sought, for the glory of 
God, to relieve herself by holding certain odoriferous substances in her 
mouth, when the Lord appeared to her to lean over towards her lovingly, 
and to find comfort Himself in these odors. After having gently breathed 
them in, He arose, and said with a gratified air to the Saints, as if contented 
with what He had done : ' See the new present which my betrothed has 
given Me ! ' 

" One day, at chapel, she heard supernaturally sung the words, Sanctus, 
Sanctus, Sanctus.' The Son of God leaning towards her like a sweet lover, 
and giving to her soul the softest kiss, said to her at the second Sanctus : 
' In this Sanctus addressed to my person, receive with this kiss all the sanc- 
tity of my divinity and of my humanity, and let it be to thee a sufficient 
preparation for approaching the communion table.' And the next follow- 


we realize the gap between the thirteenth and the twen- 
tieth century, and we feel that saintliness of character 
may yield almost absolutely worthless fruits if it be as- 
sociated with such inferior intellectual sympathies. What 
with science, idealism, and democracy, our own imagi- 
nation has grown to need a God of an entirely different 
temperament from that Being interested exclusively in 
dealing out personal favors, with whom our ancestors 
were so contented. Smitten as we are with the vision 
of social righteousness, a God indifferent to everything 
but adulation, and full of partiality for his individual 
favorites, lacks an essential element of largeness ; and 
even the best professional sainthood of former centuries, 
pent in as it is to such a conception, seems to us curiously 
shallow and unedifying. 

Take Saint Teresa, for example, one of the ablest 
women, in many respects, of whose life we have the 
record. She had a powerful intellect of the practical 
order. She wrote admirable descriptive psychology, pos- 
sessed a will equal to any emergency, great talent for 
politics and business, a buoyant disposition, and a first- 
rate literary style. She was tenaciously aspiring, and 
put her whole life at the service of her religious ideals. 
Yet so paltry were these, according to our present way 
of thinking, that (although I know that others have been 
moved differently) I confess that my only feeling in 

ing Sunday, while she was thanking God for this favor, hehold the Son of 
God, more beauteous than thousands of angels, takes her in His arms as if 
He were proud of her, and presents her to God the Father, in that perfection 
of sanctity with which He had dowered her. And the Father took such 
delight in this soul thus presented by His only Son, that, as if unable longer 
to restrain Himself, He gave her, and the Holy Ghost gave her also, the 
Sanctity attributed to each by His own Sanctus and thus she remained 
endowed with the plenary fullness of the blessing of Sanctity, bestowed on 
her by Omnipotence, by Wisdom, and by Love." Reflations de Sainte 
Gertrude, Paris, 1898, i. 44, 186. 


reading her has been pity that so much vitality of soul 
should have found such poor employment. 

In spite of the sufferings which she endured, there is 
a curious flavor of superficiality about her genius. A 
Birmingham anthropologist, Dr. Jordan, has divided the 
human race into two types, whom he calls i shrews ' and 
' non-shrews ' respectively. 1 The shrew-type is defined as 
possessing an i active unimpassioned temperament.' In 
other words, shrews are the ' motors,' rather than the 
' sensories,' 2 and their expressions are as a rule more 
energetic than the feelings which appear to prompt them. 
Saint Teresa, paradoxical as such a judgment may sound, 
was a typical shrew, in this sense of the term. The 
bustle of her style, as well as of her life, proves it. Not 
only must she receive unheard-of personal favors and 
spiritual graces from her Saviour, but she must immedi- 
ately write about them and exploiter them professionally, 
and use her expertness to give instruction to those less 
privileged. Her voluble egotism ; her sense, not of radi- 
cal bad being, as the really contrite have it, but of her 
' faults ' and ' imperfections ' in the plural ; her stereo- 
typed humility and return upon herself, as covered with 
1 confusion ' at each new manifestation of God's singular 
partiality for a person so unworthy, are typical of shrew- 
dom : a paramountry feeling nature would be objec- 
tively lost in gratitude, and silent. She had some public 
instincts, it is true ; she hated the Lutherans, and longed 
for the church's triumph over them ; but in the main her 
idea of religion seems to have been that of an endless 
amatory flirtation if one may say so without irrever- 

1 William Furneaux Jordan : Character in Birth and Parentage, first 
edition. Later editions change the nomenclature. 

2 As to this distinction, see the admirably practical account in J. M. 
Baldwin's little book, The Story of the Mind, 1898. 


ence between the devotee and the deity; and apart 
from helping younger nuns to go in this direction by the 
inspiration of her example and instruction, there is abso- 
lutely no human use in her, or sign of any general human 
interest. Yet the spirit of her age, far from rebuking 
her, exalted her as superhuman. 

We have to pass a similar judgment on the whole 
notion of saintship based on merits. Any God who, on 
the one hand, can care to keep a pedantically minute 
account of individual shortcomings, and on the other can 
feel such partialities, and load particular creatures with 
such insipid marks of favor, is too small-minded a God 
for our credence. When Luther, in his immense manly 
way, swept off by a stroke of his hand the very notion of 
a debit and credit account kept with individuals by the 
Almighty, he stretched the soul's imagination and saved 
theology from puerility. 

So much for mere devotion, divorced from the intel- 
lectual conceptions which might guide it towards bearing 
useful human fruit. 

The next saintly virtue in which we find excess is 
Purity. In theopathic characters, like those whom we 
have just considered, the love of God must not be mixed 
with any other love. Father and mother, sisters, brothers, 
and friends are felt as interfering distractions ; for sen- 
sitiveness and narrowness, when they occur together, as 
they often do, require above all things a simplified world 
to dwell in. Variety and confusion are too much for their 
powers of comfortable adaptation. But whereas your ag- 
gressive pietist reaches his unity objectively, by forcibly 
stamping disorder and divergence out, your retiring pie- 
tist reaches his subjectively, leaving disorder in the world 
at large, but making a smaller world in which he dwells 


himself and from which he eliminates it altogether. Thus, 
alongside of the church militant with its prisons, dragon- 
nades, and inquisition methods, we have the church 
fug lent, as one might call it, with its hermitages, monas- 
teries, and sectarian organizations, both churches pursu- 
ing the same object to unify the life, 1 and simplify the 
spectacle presented to the soul. A mind extremely sensi- 
tive to inner discords will drop one external relation after 
another, as interfering with the absorption of conscious- 
ness in spiritual things. Amusements must go first, then 
conventional ' society,' then business, then family duties, 
until at last seclusion, with a subdivision of the day into 
hours for stated religious acts, is the only thing that can 
be borne. The lives of saints are a history of successive 
renunciations of complication, one form of contact with 
the outer life being dropped after another, to save the 
purity of inner tone. 2 "Is it not better," a young sister 

1 On this subject I refer to the work of M. Murisier (Les Maladies du 
Sentiment Religieux, Paris, 1901), who makes inner unification the main- 
spring of the whole religious life. But all strongly ideal interests, religious 
or irreligious, unify the mind and tend to subordinate everything to them- 
selves. One would infer from M. Murisier's pages that this formal condition 
was peculiarly characteristic of religion, and that one might in comparison 
almost neglect material content, in studying the latter. I trust that the pre- 
sent work will convince the reader that religion has plenty of material 
content which is characteristic, and which is more important by far than 
any general psychological form. In spite of this criticism, I find M. Muri- 
sier's book highly instructive. 

2 Example : "At the first beginning of the Servitor's [Suso's] interior 
life, after he had purified his soul properly by confession, he marked out 
for himself, in thought, three circles, within which he shut himself up, as in 
a spiritual intrenchment. The first circle was his cell, his chapel, and the 
choir. When he was within this circle, he seemed to himself in complete 
security. The second circle was the whole monastery as far as the outer gate. 
The third and outermost circle was the gate itself, and here it was necessary 
for him to stand well upon his guard. When he went outside these circles, 
it seemed to him that he was in the plight of some wild animal which is 
outside its hole, aud surrounded by the hunt, and therefore in need of all 
its cunning and watchfulness." The Life of the Blessed Henry Suso, by 
Himself, translated by Knox, London, 1865, p. 168. 


asks her Superior, " that I should not speak at all during 
the hour of recreation, so as not to run the risk, by 
speaking, of falling into some sin of which I might not 
be conscious ? " * If the life remains a social one at all, 
those who take part in it must follow one identical rule. 
Embosomed in this monotony, the zealot for purity feels 
clean and free once more. The minuteness of uniformity 
maintained in certain sectarian communities, whether 
monastic or not, is something almost inconceivable to a 
man of the world. Costume, phraseology, hours, and 
habits are absolutely stereotyped, and there is no doubt 
that some persons are so made as to find in this stability 
an incomparable kind of mental rest. 

We have no time to multiply examples, so I will let 
the case of Saint Louis of Gonzaga serve as a type of 
excess in purification. I think you will agree that this 
youth carried the elimination of the external and dis- 
cordant to a point which we cannot unreservedly admire. 
At the age of ten, his biographer says : 

" The inspiration came to him to consecrate to the Mother of 
God his own virginity that being to her the most agreeable 
of possible presents. Without delay, then, and with all the 
fervor there was in him, joyous of heart, and burning with love, 
he made his vow of perpetual chastity. Mary accepted the 
offering of his innocent heart, and obtained for him from God, 
as a recompense, the extraordinary grace of never feeling dur- 
ing his entire life the slightest touch of temptation against the 
virtue of purity. This was an altogether exceptional favor, 
rarely accorded even to Saints themselves, and all the more 
marvelous in that Louis dwelt always in courts and among 
great folks, where danger and opportunity are so unusually 
frequent. It is true that Louis from his earliest childhood had 
shown a natural repugnance for whatever might be impure or 

1 Vie des premieres Religieuses Dominicaines de la Congregation de St. 
Dominique, a Nancy ; Nancy, 1896, p. 129. 


unvirginal, and even for relations of any sort whatever between 
persons of opposite sex. But this made it all the more surpris- 
ing that he should, especially since this vow, feel it necessary 
to have recourse to such a number of expedients for protect- 
ing against even the shadow of danger the virginity which he 
had thus consecrated. One might suppose that if any one 
could have contented himself with the ordinary precautions, 
prescribed for all Christians, it would assuredly have been he. 
But no ! In the use of preservatives and means of defense, in 
flight from the most insignificant occasions, from every possi- 
bility of peril, just as in the mortification of his flesh, he went 
farther than the majority of saints. He, who by an extraordi- 
nary protection of God's grace was never tempted, measured 
all his steps as if he were threatened on every side by particu- 
lar dangers. Thenceforward he never raised his eyes, either 
when walking in the streets, or when in society. Not only did 
he avoid all business with females even more scrupulously than 
before, but he renounced all conversation and every kind of 
social recreation with them, although his father tried to make 
him take part ; and he commenced only too early to deliver his 
innocent body to austerities of every kind." 1 

At the age of twelve, we read of this young man that 
" if by chance his mother sent one of her maids of honor 
to him with a message, he never allowed her to come in, 
but listened to her through the barely opened door, and 
dismissed her immediately. He did not like to be alone 
with his own mother, whether at table or in conversation ; 
and when the rest of the company withdrew, he sought 
also a pretext for retiring. . . . Several great ladies, rela- 
tives of his, he avoided learning to know even by sight ; 
and he made a sort of treaty with his father, engaging 
promptly and readily to accede to all his wishes, if he 
might only be excused from all visits to ladies." (Ibid., 
p. 71.) 

1 Meschxer's Life of Saint Louis of Gonzaga, French translation by 
Lebreqtjier, 1891, p. 40. 


When lie was seventeen years old Louis joined the 
Jesuit order, 1 against his father's passionate entreaties, for 
he was heir of a princely house ; and when a year later the 
father died, he took the loss as a ' particular attention ' 
to himself on God's part, and wrote letters of stilted 
good advice, as from a spiritual superior, to his grieving 
mother. He soon became so good a monk that if any 
one asked him the number of his brothers and sisters, 
he had to reflect and count them over before replying. 
A Father asked him one day if he were never troubled 
by the thought of his family, to which, " I never think 
of them except when praying for them," was his only 
answer. Never was he seen to hold in his hand a flower 
or anything perfumed, that he might take pleasure in 
it. On the contrary, in the hospital, he used to seek 
for whatever was most disgusting, and eagerly snatch the 
bandages of ulcers, etc., from the hands of his com- 
panions. He avoided worldly talk, and immediately tried 
to turn every conversation on to pious subjects, or else he 
remained silent. He systematically refused to notice his 
surroundings. Being ordered one day to bring a book 
from the rector's seat in the refectory, he had to ask 
where the rector sat, for in the three months he had 
eaten bread there, so carefully did he guard his eyes that 
he had not noticed the place. One day, during recess, 
having looked by chance on one of his companions, he 
reproached himself as for a grave sin against modesty. 
He cultivated silence, as preserving from sins of the 
tongue ; and his greatest penance was the limit which his 
superiors set to his bodily penances. He sought after 

1 In his boyish note-book he praises the monastic life for its freedom 
from sin, and for the imperishable treasures, which it enables us to store up, 
" of merit in God's eyes which makes of Him our debtor for all Eternity." 
Loc. cit., p. 62. 


false accusations and unjust reprimands as opportunities 
of humility ; and such was his obedience that, when a 
room-mate, having" no more paper, asked him for a sheet, 
he did not feel free to give it to him without first obtain- 
ing the permission of the superior, who, as such, stood in 
the place of God, and transmitted his orders. 

I can find no other sorts of fruit than these of Louis's 
saintship. He died in 1591, in his twenty-ninth year, 
and is known in the Church as the patron of all young 
people. On his festival, the altar in the chapel devoted 
to him in a certain church in Rome " is embosomed in 
flowers, arranged with exquisite taste ; and a pile of 
letters may be seen at its foot, written to the Saint 
by young men and women, and directed to ' Paradiso.' 
They are supposed to be burnt unread except by San 
Luigi, who must find singular petitions in these pretty 
little missives, tied up now with a green ribbon, expres- 
sive of hope, now with a red one, emblematic of love," 
etc. 1 

1 Mademoiselle Mori, a novel quoted in Hare's Walks in Rome, 1900, 
i. 55. 

I cannot resist the temptation to quote from Starbuck's book, p. 388, 
another case of purification by elimination. It runs as follows : 

" The signs of abnormality which sanctified persons show are of frequent 
occurrence. They get out of tune with other people ; often they will have 
nothing to do with churches, which they regard as worldly ; they become 
hypercritical towards others ; they grow careless of their social, political, 
and financial obligations. As an instance of this type may be mentioned a 
woman of sixty-eight of whom the writer made a special study. She had 
been a member of one of the most active and progressive churches in a 
busy part of a large city. Her pastor described her as having reached the 
censorious stage. She had grown more and more out of sympathy with the 
church ; her connection with it finally consisted simply in attendance at 
prayer-meeting, at which her only message was that of reproof and con- 
demnation of the others for living on a low plane. At last she withdrew 
from fellowship with any church. The writer found her living alone in a 
little room on the top story of a cheap boarding-house, quite out of touch 
with all human relations, but apparently happy in the enjoyment of her 


Our final judgment of the worth of such a life as this 
will depend largely on our conception of God, and of the 
sort of conduct he is best pleased with in his creatures. 
The Catholicism of the sixteenth century paid little heed 
to social righteousness ; and to leave the world to the 
devil whilst saving one's own soul was then accounted no 
discreditable scheme. To-day, rightly or wrongly, help- 
fulness in general human affairs is, in consequence of 
one of those secular mutations in moral sentiment of 
which I spoke, deemed an essential element of worth in 
character ; and to be of some public or private use is 
also reckoned as a species of divine service. Other early 
Jesuits, especially the missionaries among them, the 
Xaviers, Brebeufs, Jogues, were objective minds, and 
fought in their way for the world's welfare; so their 
lives to-day inspire us. But when the intellect, as in this 
Louis, is originally no larger than a pin's head, and 
cherishes ideas of God of corresponding smallness, the 
result, notwithstanding the heroism put forth, is on the 
whole repulsive. Purity, we see in the object-lesson, is 
not the one thing needful ; and it is better that a life 
should contract many a dirt-mark, than forfeit useful- 
ness in its efforts to remain unspotted. 

own spiritual blessings. Her time was occupied in writing booklets on 
sanctification page after page of dreamy rhapsody. She proved to be one 
of a small group of persons who claim that entire salvation involves three 
steps instead of two ; not only must there be conversion and sanctification, 
but a third, which they call ' crucifixion ' or ' perfect redemption,' and 
which seems to bear the same relation to sanctification that this bears to 
conversion. She related how the Spirit had said to her, ' Stop going to 
church. Stop going to holiness meetings. Go to your own room and I 
will teach you.' She professes to care nothing for colleges, or preachers, 
or churches, but only cares to listen to what God says to her. Her descrip- 
tion of her experience seemed entirely consistent ; she is happy and con- 
tented, and her life is entirely satisfactory to herself. While listening to 
her own story, one was tempted to forget that it was from the life of a 
person who could not live by it in conjunction with her fellows." 


Proceeding- onwards in our search of religious extrava- 
gance, we next come upon excesses of Tenderness and 
Charity. Here saintliness has to face the charge of pre- 
serving the unfit, and breeding parasites and beggars. 
' Resist not evil,' ' Love your enemies,' these are saintly 
maxims of which men of this world find it hard to speak 
without impatience. Are the men of this world right, 
or are the saints in possession of the deeper range of 
truth ? 

No simple answer is possible. Here, if anywhere, 
one feels the complexity of the moral life, and the 
mysteriousness of the way in which facts and ideals are 

Perfect conduct is a relation between three terms : 
the actor, the objects for which he acts, and the recip- 
ients of the action. In order that conduct should be 
abstractly perfect, all three terms, intention, execution, 
and reception, should be suited to one another. The best 
intention will fail if it either work by false means or 
address itself to the wrong recipient. Thus no critic or 
estimator of the value of conduct can confine himself 
to the actor's animus alone, apart from the other ele- 
ments of the performance. As there is no worse lie than 
a truth misunderstood by those who hear it, so reason- 
able arguments, challenges to magnanimity, and appeals to 
sympathy or justice, are folly when we are dealing with 
human crocodiles and boa-constrictors. The saint may 
simply give the universe into the hands of the enemy by 
his trustfulness. He may by non-resistance cut off his 
own survival. 

Herbert Spencer tells us that the perfect man's con- 
duct will appear perfect only when the environment is 
perfect : to no inferior environment is it suitably adapted. 
We may paraphrase this by cordially admitting that 

erwti^ttf ^ e*J>eiftjP\cfcU or b-e,*^*.- 


saintly conduct would be the most perfect conduct con- 
ceivable in an environment where all were saints already ; 
but by adding that in an environment where few are 
saints, and many the exact reverse of saints, it must be 
ill adapted. We must frankly confess, then, using our 
empirical common sense and ordinary practical preju- 
dices, that in the world that actually is, the virtues of 
sympathy, charity, and non-resistance may be, and often 
have been, manifested in excess. The powers of darkness 
have systematically taken advantage of them. The whole 
modern scientific organization of charity is a consequence 
of the failure of simply giving alms. The whole history 
of constitutional government is a commentary on the ex- 
cellence of resisting evil, and when one cheek is smitten, 
of smiting back and not turning the other cheek also. 

You will agree to this in general, for in spite of the 
Gospel, in spite of Quakerism, in spite of Tolstoi, you 
believe in fighting fire with fire, in shooting down usurp- 
ers, locking up thieves, and freezing out vagabonds and 

And yet you are sure, as I am sure, that were the 
world confined to these hard-headed, hard-hearted, and 
hard-fisted methods exclusively, were there no one prompt 
to help a brother first, and find out afterwards whether 
he were worthy ; no one willing to drown his private 
wrongs in pity for the wronger's person ; no one ready to 
be duped many a time rather than live always on suspi- 
cion ; no one glad to treat individuals passionately and 
impulsively rather than by general rules of prudence ; the 
world would be an infinitely worse place than it is now to 
live in. The tender grace, not of a day that is dead, but 
of a day yet to be born somehow, with the golden rule 
grown natural, would be cut out from the perspective of 
our imaginations. 



The saints, existing in this way, may, with their ex- 
travagances of human tenderness, be prophetic. Nay, 
innumerable times they have proved themselves pro- 
phetic. Treating those whom they met, in spite of the 
past, in spite of all appearances, as worthy, they have 
stimulated them to be worthy, miraculously transformed 
them by their radiant example and by the challenge of 
their expectation. 

From this point of view we may admit the human 
charity which we find in all saints, and the great excess 
of it which we find in some saints, to be a genuinely 
creative social force, tending to make real a degree of 
virtue which it alone is ready to assume as possible. 
The saints are authors, auctores, increasers, of good- 
ness. The potentialities of development in human souls 
are unfathomable. So many who seemed irretrievably 
hardened have in point of fact been softened, converted, 
regenerated, in ways that amazed the subjects even more 
than they surprised the spectators, that we never can be 
sure in advance of any man that his salvation by the 
way of love is hopeless. We have no right to speak of 
human crocodiles and boa-constrictors as of fixedly incur- 
able beings. We know not the complexities of person- 
ality, the smouldering emotional fires, the other facets of 
the character-polyhedron, the resources of the subliminal 
region. St. Paul long ago made our ancestors familiar 
with the idea that every soul is virtually sacred. Since 
Christ died for us all without exception, St. Paul said, we 
must despair of no one. This belief in the essential 
sacredness of every one expresses itself to-day in all sorts 
of humane customs and reformatory institutions, and in 
a growing aversion to the death penalty and to brutality 
in punishment. The saints, with their extravagance of 
human tenderness, are the great torch-bearers of this 


belief, the tip of the wedge, the clearers of the darkness. 
Like the single drops which sparkle in the sun as they 
are flung far ahead of the advancing edge of a wave- 
crest or of a flood, they show the way and are forerun- 
ners. The world is not yet with them, so they often 
seem in the midst of the world's affairs to be preposter- 
ous. Yet they are impregnators of the world, vivifiers 
and animaters of potentialities of goodness which but for 
them would lie forever dormant. It is not possible to be 
quite as mean as we naturally are, when they have passed 
before us. One fire kindles another ; and without that 
over-trust in human worth which they show, the rest of 
us would lie in spiritual stagnancy. 

Momentarily considered, then, the saint may waste 
his tenderness and be the dupe and victim of his char- 
itable fever, but the general function of his charity in 
social evolution is vital and essential. If things are ever 
to move upward, some one must be ready to take the 
first step, and assume the risk of it. No one who is not 
willing to try charity, to try non-resistance as the saint 
is always willing, can tell whether these methods will or 
will not succeed. When they do succeed, they are far 
more powerfully successful than force or worldly pru- 
dence. Force destroys enemies ; and the best that can 
be said of prudence is that it keeps what we already have 
in safety. But non-resistance, when successful, turns 
enemies into friends ; and charity regenerates its objects. 
These saintly methods are, as I said, creative energies ; 
and genuine saints find in the elevated excitement with 
which their faith endows them an authority and impres- 
siveness which makes them irresistible in situations where 
men of shallower nature cannot get on at all without 
the use of worldly prudence. This practical proof that 
worldly Avisdom may be safely transcended is the saint's 


magic gift to mankind. 1 Not only does his vision of a 
better world console us for the generally prevailing prose 

1 The best missionary lives abound in the victorious combination of non- 
resistance with personal authority. John G. Paton, for example, in the 
New Hebrides, among brutish Melanesian cannibals, preserves a charmed 
life by dint of it. When it comes to the point, no one ever dares actually 
to strike him. Native converts, inspired by him, showed analogous virtue. 
" One of our chiefs, full of the Christ-kindled desire to seek and to save, 
sent a message to an inland chief, that he and four attendants would come 
on Sabbath and tell them the gospel of Jehovah God. The reply came back 
sternly forbidding their visit, and threatening with death any Christian 
that approached their village. Our chief sent in response a loving message, 
telling them that Jehovah had taught the Christians to return good for 
evil, and that they would come unarmed to tell them the story of how the 
Son of God came into the world and died in order to bless and save his 
enemies. The heathen chief sent back a stern and prompt reply once 
more : ' If you come, you will be killed.' On Sabbath morn the Christian 
chief and his four companions were met outside the village by the heathen 
chief, who implored and threatened them once more. But the former 
said : 

" ' We come to you without weapons of war ! We come only to tell you 
about Jesus. We believe that He will protect us to-day.' 

" As they pressed steadily forward towards the village, spears began to be 
thrown at them. Some they evaded, being all except one dexterous war- 
riors ; and others they literally received with their bare hands, and turned 
them aside in an incredible manner. The heathen, apparently thunderstruck 
at these men thus approaching them without weapons of war, and not even 
flinging back their own spears which they had caught, after having thrown 
what the old chief called ' a shower of spears,' desisted from mere sur- 
prise. Our Christian chief called out, as he and his companions drew up in 
the midst of them on the village public ground : 

" ' Jehovah thus protects us. He has given us all your spears ! Once we 
would have thrown them back at you and killed you. But now we come, 
not to fight but to tell you about Jesus. He has changed our dark hearts. 
He asks you now to lay down all these your other weapons of war, and to 
hear what we can tell you about the love of God, our great Father, the 
only living God.' 

" The heathen were perfectly overawed. They manifestly looked on these 
Christians as protected by some Invisible One. They listened for the first 
time to the story of the Gospel and of the Cross. We lived to see that 
chief and all his tribe sitting in the school of Christ. And there is perhaps 
not an island in these southern seas, amongst all those won for Christ, 
where similar acts of heroism on the part of converts cannot be recited." 
John G. Paton, Missionary to the New Hebrides, An Autobiography, 
second part, London, 1890, p. 243. 


and barrenness ; but even when on the whole we have to 
confess him ill adapted, he makes some converts, and the 
environment gets better for his ministry. He is an effec- 
tive ferment of goodness, a slow transmuter of the earthly 
into a more heavenly order. 

In this respect the Utopian dreams of social justice in 
which many contemporary socialists and anarchists indulge 
are, in spite of their impracticability and non-adaptation 
to present environmental conditions, analogous to the 
saint's belief in an existent kingdom of heaven. They 
help to break the edge of the general reign of hardness, 
and are slow leavens of a better order. 

The next topic in order is Asceticism, which I fancy 
you are all ready to consider without argument a virtue 
liable to extravagance and excess. The optimism and 
refinement of the modern imagination has, as I have 
already said elsewhere, changed the attitude of the church 
towards corporeal mortification, and a Suso or a Saint 
Peter of Alcantara x appear to us to-day rather in the 

1 Saint Peter, Saint Teresa tells us in her autobiography (French trans- 
lation, p. 333), " had passed forty years without ever sleeping more than 
an hour and a half a day. Of all his mortifications, this was the one that 
had cost him the most. To compass it, he kept always on his knees or on 
his feet. The little sleep he allowed nature to take was snatched in a sit- 
ting posture, his head leaning against a piece of wood fixed in the wall. 
Even had he wished to lie down, it would have been impossible, because his 
cell was only four feet and a half long. In the course of all these years he 
never raised his hood, no matter what the ardor of the sun or the rain's 
strength. He never put on a shoe. He wore a garment of coarse sack- 
cloth, with nothing else upon his skin. This garment was as scant as pos- 
sible, and over it a little cloak of the same stuff. When the cold was great 
he took off the cloak and opened for a while the door and little window of 
his cell. Then he closed them and resumed the mantle, his way, as he 
told us, of warming himself, and making his body feel a better tempera- 
ture. It was a frequent thing with him to eat once only in three days ; 
and when I expressed my surprise, he said that it was very easy if one once 
had acquired the habit. One of his companions has assured me that he has 


light of tragic mountebanks than of sane men inspiring 
us with respect. If the inner dispositions are right, we 
ask, what need of all this torment, this violation of the 
outer nature? It keeps the outer nature too important. 
Any one who is genuinely emancipated from the flesh 
will look on pleasures and pains, abundance and priva- 
tion, as alike irrelevant and indifferent. He can engage 
in actions and experience enjoyments without fear of 
corruption or enslavement. As the Bhagavad-Gita says, 
only those need renounce worldly actions who are still 
inwardly attached thereto. If one be really unattached 
to the fruits of action, one may mix in the world with 
equanimity. I quoted in a former lecture Saint Augus- 
tine's antinomian saying : If you only love God enough, 
you may safely follow all your inclinations. " He needs 
no devotional practices," is one of Ramakrishna's max- 
ims, " whose heart is moved to tears at the mere mention 
of the name of Hari." 1 And the Buddha, in pointing 
out what he called ' the middle way ' to his disciples, 
told them to abstain from both extremes, excessive mor- 
tification being as unreal and unworthy as mere desire 
and pleasure. The only perfect life, he said, is that of 
inner wisdom, which makes one thing as indifferent to 

gone sometimes eight days without food. . . . His poverty was extreme ; 
and his mortification, even in his youth, was such that he told me he had 
passed three years in a house of his order without knowing any of the 
monks otherwise than by the sound of their voice, for he never raised his 
eyes, and only found his way about by following the others. He showed 
this same modesty on public highways. He spent many years without ever 
laying eyes upon a woman ; but he confessed to me that at the age he bad 
reached it was indifferent to him whether he laid eyes on them or not. He 
was very old when I first came to know him, and his body so attenuated 
that it seemed formed of nothing so much as of so many roots of trees. 
With all this sanctity he was very affable. He never spoke unless he was 
questioned, but his intellectual right-mindedness and grace gave to all his 
words an irresistible charm." 

1 F. Max Muller : Ramakrishna, his Life and Sayings, 1899, p. 180. 


us as another, and thus leads to rest, to peace, and to 
Nirvana. 1 

We find accordingly that as ascetic saints have grown 
older, and directors of conscience more experienced, 
they usually have shown a tendency to lay less stress 
on special bodily mortifications. Catholic teachers have 
always professed the rule that, since health is needed for 
efficiency in God's service, health must not be sacrificed 
to mortification. The general optimism and healthy- 
mindedness of liberal Protestant circles to-day makes 
mortification for mortification's sake repugnant to us. 
We can no longer sympathize with cruel deities, and 
the notion that God can take delight in the spectacle of 
sufferings self-inflicted in his honor is abhorrent. In 
consequence of all these motives you probably are dis- 
posed, unless some special utility can be shown in some 
individual's discipline, to treat the general tendency to 
asceticism as pathological. 

Yet I believe that a more careful consideration of the 
whole matter, distinguishing between the general good 
intention of asceticism and the uselessness of some of the 
particular acts of which it may be guilty, ought to re- 
habilitate it in our esteem. For in its spiritual meaning 
asceticism stands for nothing less than for the essence of 
the twice-born philosophy. It symbolizes, lamely enough 
no doubt, but sincerely, the belief that there is an ele- 
ment of real wrongness in this world, which is neither to 
be ignored nor evaded, but which must be squarely met 
and overcome by an appeal to the soul's heroic resources, 
and neutralized and cleansed away by suffering. As 
against this view, the ultra-optimistic form of the once- 
born philosophy thinks we may treat evil by the method 
of ignoring. Let a man who, by fortunate health and cir- 

1 Oldenijerg: Buddha; translated by W. Hoey, London, 1882, p. 127. 


cmnstances, escapes the suffering of any great amount of 
evil in his own person, also close his eyes to it as it exists 
in the wider universe outside his private experience, and 
he will be quit of it altogether, and can sail through life 
happily on a healthy-minded basis. But we saw in our 
lectures on melancholy how precarious this attempt neces- 
sarily is. Moreover it is but for the individual ; and 
leaves the evil outside of him, unredeemed and unpro- 
vided for in his philosophy. 

No such attempt can be a general solution of the 
problem ; and to minds of sombre tinge, who naturally 
feel life as a tragic mystery, such optimism is a shal- 
low dodge or mean evasion. It accepts, in lieu of a 
real deliverance, what is a lucky personal accident merely, 
a cranny to escape by. It leaves the general world un- 
helped and still in the clutch of Satan. The real deliver- 
ance, the twice-born folk insist, must be of universal 
application. Pain and wrong and death must be fairly 
met and overcome in higher excitement, or else their 
sting remains essentially unbroken. If one has ever 
taken the fact of the prevalence of tragic death in this 
world's history fairly into his mind, freezing, drowning, 
entombment alive, wild beasts, worse men, and hideous 
diseases, he can with difficulty, it seems to me, con- 
tinue his own career of worldly prosperity without sus- 
pecting that he may all the while not be really iuside the 
game, that he may lack the great initiation. 

Well, this is exactly what asceticism thinks ; and it 
voluntarily takes the initiation. Life is neither farce nor 
genteel comedy, it says, but something we must sit at in 
mourning garments, hoping its bitter taste will purge us 
of our folly. The wild and the heroic are indeed such 
rooted parts of it that healthy-mindedness pure and sim- 
ple, with its sentimental optimism, can hardly be regarded 


by any thinking man as a serious solution. Phrases of 
neatness, cosiness, and comfort can never be an answer to 
the sphinx's riddle. 

In these remarks I am leaning only upon mankind's 
common instinct for reality, which in point of fact has 
always held the world to be essentially a theatre for 
heroism. In heroism, we feel, life's supreme mystery is 
hidden. We tolerate no one who has no capacity what- 
ever for it in any direction. On the other hand, no 
matter what a man's frailties otherwise may be, if he be 
willing to risk death, and still more if he suffer it hero- 
ically, in the service he has chosen, the fact consecrates 
him forever. Inferior to ourselves in this or that way, 
if yet we cling to life, and he is able ' to fling it away 
like a flower ' as caring nothing for it, we account him 
in the deepest way our born superior. Each of us in his 
own person feels that a high-hearted indifference to life 
would expiate all his shortcomings. 

The metaphysical mystery, thus recognized by com- 
mon sense, that he who feeds on death that feeds on 
men possesses life supereminently and excellently, and 
meets best the secret demands of the universe, is the 
truth of which asceticism has been the faithful champion . 
The folly of the cross, so inexplicable by the intellect, 
has yet its indestructible vital meaning. 

Representatively, then, and symbolically, and apart 
from the vagaries into which the unenlightened intellect 
of former times may have let it wander, asceticism must, I 
believe, be acknowledged to go with the profounder way 
of handling the gift of existence. Naturalistic optimism is 
mere syllabub and flattery and sponge-cake in comparison. 
The practical course of action for us, as religious men, 
would therefore, it seems to me, not be simply to turn 
our backs upon the ascetic impulse, as most of us to-day 


turn them, but rather to discover some outlet for it of 
which the fruits in the way of privation and hardship 
might be objectively useful. The older monastic asceti- 
cism occupied itself with pathetic futilities, or terminated 
in the mere egotism of the individual, increasing his own 
perfection. 1 But is it not possible for us to discard most 
of these older forms of mortification, and yet find saner 
channels for the heroism which inspired them ? 

Does not, for example, the worship of material luxury 
and wealth, which constitutes so large a portion of the 
'spirit' of our age, make somewhat for effeminacy ami 
unmanliness ? Is not the exclusively sympathetic and 
facetious way in which most children are brought up to- 
day so different from the education of a hundred years 
ago, especially in evangelical circles in danger, in spite 
of its many advantages, of developing a certain trashi- 
ness of fibre? Are there not hereabouts some points 
of application for a renovated and revised ascetic disci- 
pline ? 

Many of you would recognize such dangers, but would 
point to athletics, militarism, and individual and national 
enterprise and adventure as the remedies. These con- 
temporary ideals are quite as remarkable for the energy 
with which they make for heroic standards of life, as 
contemporary religion is remarkable for the way in which 
it neglects them. 2 War and adventure assuredly keep 
all who engage in them from treating themselves too 
tenderly. They demand such incredible efforts, depth 

1 " The vanities of all others may die out, but the vanity of a saint as re- 
gards his sainthood is hard indeed to wear away." Ramakrishna, his Life 
and Sayings, 1899, p. 172. 

2 " When a church has to be run by oysters, ice-cream, and fun," I read 
in an American religious paper, " you may be sure that it is running away 
from Christ." Such, if one may judge by appearances, is the present plight 
of many of our churches. 


beyond depth of exertion, both in degree and in dura- 
tion, that the whole scale of motivation alters. Discom- 
fort and annoyance, hunger and wet, pain and cold, 
squalor and filth, cease to have any deterrent operation 
whatever. Death turns into a commonplace matter, and 
its usual power to check our action vanishes. With the 
annulling of these customary inhibitions, ranges of new 
energy are set free, and life seems cast upon a higher 
plane of power. 

The beauty of war in this respect is that it is so con- 
gruous with ordinary human nature. Ancestral evolution 
has made us all potential warriors ; so the most insignifi- 
cant individual, when thrown into an army in the field, is 
weaned from whatever excess of tenderness towards his 
precious person he may bring with him, and may easily 
develop into a monster of insensibility. 

But when we compare the military type of self-severity 
with that of the ascetic saint, we find a world-wide differ- 
ence in all their spiritual concomitants. 

" ' Live and let live,' ' writes a clear-headed Austrian 
officer, " is no device for an army. Contempt for one's 
own comrades, for the troops of the enemy, and, above 
all, fierce contempt for one's own person, are what war 
demands of every one. Far better is it for an army to 
be too savage, too cruel, too barbarous, than to possess 
too much sentimentality and human reasonableness. If 
the soldier is to be good for anything as a soldier, he 
must be exactly the opposite of a reasoning and thinking 
man. The measure of goodness in him is his jiossible 
use in war. War, and even peace, require of the soldier 
absolutely peculiar standards of morality. The recruit 
brings with him common moral notions, of which he 
must seek immediately to get rid. For him victory, suc- 
cess, must be everything. The most barbaric tendencies 


in men come to life again in war, and for war's uses they 
are incommensurably good." * 

These words are of course literally true. The imme- 
diate aim of the soldier's life is, as Moltke said, destruc- 
tion, and nothing but destruction ; and whatever con- 
structions wars result in are remote and non-military. 
Consequently the soldier cannot train himself to be too 
feelingless to all those usual sympathies and respects, 
whether for persons or for things, that make for conser- 
vation. Yet the fact remains that war is a school of 
strenuous life and heroism ; and, being in the line of 
aboriginal instinct, is the only school that as yet is uni- 
versally available. But when we gravely ask ourselves 
whether this wholesale organization of irrationality and 
crime be our only bulwark against effeminacy, we stand 
aghast at the thought, and think more kindly of ascetic 
religion. One hears of the mechanical equivalent of heat. 
What we now need to discover in the social realm is the 
moral equivalent of war : something heroic that will 
speak to men as universally as war does, and yet will be 
as compatible with their spiritual selves as war has proved 
itself to be incompatible. I have often thought that in 
the old monkish poverty-worship, in spite of the pedan- 
try which infested it, there might be something like that 
moral equivalent of war which we are seeking. May 
not voluntarily accepted poverty be i the strenuous life,' 
without the need of crushing weaker peoples ? 

Poverty indeed is the strenuous life, without brass 
bands or uniforms or hysteric popular applause or lies 
or circumlocutions ; and when one sees the way in which 
wealth-getting enters as an ideal into the very bone and 
marrow of our generation, one wonders whether a revival 

1 C. V. B. K. : Friedens- und Kriegs-moral der Heere. Quoted by 
Hamon : Psychologic du Militaire professional, 1895, p. xli. 


of the belief that poverty is a worthy religious vocation 

/ may not be e the transformation of military courage,' and 

the spiritual reform which our time stands most in need of. 

Among us English-speaking peoples especially do the 
praises of poverty need once more to be boldly sung. 
We have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise 
any one who elects to be poor in order to simplify and 
save his inner life. If he does not join the general 
scramble and pant with the money-making street, we 
deem him spiritless and lacking in ambition. We have 
lost the power even of imagining what the ancient ideali- 
zation of poverty could have meant : the liberation from 
material attachments, the unbribed soul, the manlier 
indifference, the paying our way by what we are or do 
and not by what we have, the right to fling away our life 
at any moment irresponsibly, the more athletic trim, 
in short, the moral fighting shape. When we of the 
so-called better classes are scared as men were never 
scared in history at material ugliness and hardship ; 
when we put off marriage until our house can be artistic, 
and quake at the thought of having a child without a 
bank-account and doomed to manual labor, it is time for 
thinking men to protest against so unmanly and irre- 
ligious a state of opinion. 

It is true that so far as wealth gives time for ideal 
ends and exercise to ideal energies, wealth is better than 
poverty and ought to be chosen. But wealth does this 
in only a portion of the actual cases. Elsewhere the 
desire to gain wealth and the fear to lose it are our chief 
breeders of cow r ardice and propagators of corruption. 
There are thousands of conjunctures in which a wealth- 
bound man must be a slave, whilst a man for whom 
poverty has no terrors becomes a freeman. Think of the 
strength which personal indifference to poverty would 


give us if we were devoted to unpopular causes. We 
need no longer hold our tongues or fear to vote the 
revolutionary or reformatory ticket. Our stocks might 
fall, our hopes of promotion vanish, our salaries stop, 
our club doors close in our faces ; yet, while we lived, we 
would imperturbably bear witness to the spirit, and our 
example would help to set free our generation. The 
cause would need its funds, but we its servants would be 
potent in proportion as we personally were contented with 
our poverty. 

I recommend this matter to your serious pondering, 
for it is certain that the prevalent fear of poverty amoirj: 
the educated classes is the worst moral disease from 
which our civilization suffers. 

I have now said all that I can usefully say about the 
several fruits of religion as they are manifested in saintly 
lives, so I will make a brief review and pass to my more 
general conclusions. 

Our question, you will remember, is as to whether reli- 
gion stands approved by its fruits, as these are exhibited 
in the saintly type of character. Single attributes of 
saintliness may, it is true, be temperamental endowments, 
found in non-religious individuals. But the whole group 
of them forms a combination which, as such, is religious, 
for it seems to flow from the sense of the divine as from 
its psychological centre. Whoever possesses strongly 
this sense comes naturally to think that the smallest 
details of this world derive infinite significance from 
their relation to an unseen divine order. The thought of 
this order yields him a superior denomination of happi- 
ness, and a steadfastness of soul with which no other can 
compare. In social relations his serviceability is exem- 
plary ; he abounds in impulses to help. His help is in- 


ward as well as outward, for his sympathy reaches souls 
as well as bodies, and kindles unsuspected faculties therein. 
Instead of placing happiness where common men place it, 
in comfort, he places it in a higher kind of inner excite- 
ment, which converts discomforts into sources of cheer 
and annuls unhappiness. So he turns his back upon 
no duty, however thankless ; and when we are in need of 
assistance, we can count upon the saint lending his hand 
with more certainty than we can count upon any other 
person. Finally, his humble-mindedness and his ascetic 
tendencies save him from the petty personal pretensions 
which so obstruct our ordinary social intercourse, and 
his purity gives us in him a clean man for a companion. 
Felicity, purity, charity, patience, self-severity, these 
are splendid excellencies, and the saint of all men shows 
them in the completest possible measure. 

But, as we saw, all these things together do not make 
saints infallible. When their intellectual outlook is nar- 
row, they fall into all sorts of holy excesses, fanaticism 
or theopathic absorption, self-torment, prudery, scrupu- 
losity, gullibility, and morbid inability to meet the world. 
By the very intensity of his fidelity to the paltry ideals 
with which an inferior intellect may inspire him, a saint 
can be even more objectionable and damnable than a 
superficial carnal man would be in the same situation. 
We must judge him not sentimentally only, and not 
in isolation, but using our own intellectual standards, 
placing him in his environment, and estimating his total 

Now in the matter of intellectual standards, we must 
bear in mind that it is unfair, where we find narrowness 
of mind, always to impute it as a vice to the individual, 
for in religious and theological matters he probably ab- 
sorbs his narrowness from his generation. Moreover, we 


must not confound the essentials of saintliness, which are 
those general passions of which I have spoken, with its 
accidents, which are the special determinations of these 
passions at any historical moment. In these determina- 
tions the saints will usually be loyal to the temporary 
idols of their tribe. Taking refuge in monasteries w r as as 
much an idol of the tribe in the middle ages, as bearing 
a hand in the world's work is to-day. Saint Francis or 
Saint Bernard, were they living to-day, would undoubt- 
edly be leading consecrated lives of some sort, but quite 
as undoubtedly they would not lead them in retirement. 
Our animosity to special historic manifestations must not 
lead us to give away the saintly impulses in their essential 
nature to the tender mercies of inimical critics. 

The most inimical critic of the saintly impulses whom I 
know is Nietzsche. He contrasts them with the worldly 
passions as we find these embodied in the predaceous mili- 
tary character, altogether to the advantage of the latter. 
Your born saint, it must be confessed, has something 
about him which often makes the gorge of a carnal man 
rise, so it will be worth while to consider the contrast in 
question more fully. 

Dislike of the saintly nature seems to be a negative 
result of the biologically useful instinct of welcoming 
leadership, and glorifying the chief of the tribe. The 
chief is the potential, if not the actual tyrant, the mas- 
terful, overpowering man of prey. We confess our in- 
feriority and grovel before him. We quail under his 
glance, and are at the same time proud of owning so 
dangerous a lord. Such instinctive and submissive hero- 
wwship must have been indispensable in primeval tribal 
life. In the endless wars of those times, leaders were 
absolutely needed for the tribe's survival. If there were 
any tribes who owned no leaders, they can have left no 


issue to narrate their doom. The leaders always had 
good consciences, for conscience in them coalesced with 
will, and those who looked on their face were as much 
smitten with wonder at their freedom from inner restraint 
as with awe at the energy of their outward performances. 

Compared with these beaked and talon ed graspers of 
the world, saints are herbivorous animals, tame and harm- 
less barn-yard poultry. There are saints whose beard 
you may, if you ever care to, pull with impunity. Such 
a man excites no thrills of wonder veiled in terror ; his 
conscience is full of scruples and returns ; he stuns us 
neither by his inward freedom nor his outward power; 
and unless he found within us an altogether different 
faculty of admiration to appeal to, we should pass him by 
with contempt. 

In point of fact, he does appeal to a different faculty. 
Reenacted in human nature is the fable of the wind, the 
sun, and the traveler. The sexes embody the discrep- 
ancy. The woman loves the man the more admiringly 
the stormier he shows himself, and the world deifies its 
rulers the more for being willful and unaccountable. But 
the woman in turn subjugates the man by the mystery of 
gentleness in beauty, and the saint has always charmed 
the world by something similar. Mankind is susceptible 
and suggestible in opposite directions, and the rivalry of 
influences is unsleeping. The saintly and the worldly 
ideal pursue their feud in literature as much as in real life. 

For Nietzsche the saint represents little but sneaking- 
ness and slavishness. He is the sophisticated invalid, the 
degenerate par excellence, the man of insufficient vitality. 
His prevalence would put the human type in danger. 

" The sick are the greatest danger for the well. The weaker, 
not the stronger, are the strong's undoing. It is not fear of 
our fellow-man, which we should wish to see diminished ; for 


fear rouses those who are strong to become terrible in turn 
themselves, and preserves the hard-earned and successful type of 
humanity. What is to be dreaded by us more than any other 
doom is not fear, but rather the great disgust, not fear, but 
rather the great pity disgust and pity for our human fellows. 
. . . The morbid are our greatest peril not the 'bad' men, 
not the predatory beings. Those born wrong, the miscarried, 
the broken they it is, the weakest, who are undermining the 
vitality of the race, poisoning our trust in life, and putting hu- 
manity in question. Every look of them is a sigh, ' Would 
I were something other ! I am sick and tired of what I 
am.' In this swamp-soil of self-contempt, every poisonous 
weed flourishes, and all so small, so secret, so dishonest, and so 
sweetly rotten. Here swarm the worms of sensitiveness and 
resentment ; here the air smells odious with secrecy, with what 
is not to be acknowledged ; here is woven endlessly the net of 
the meanest of conspiracies, the conspiracy of those who suffer 
against those who succeed and are victorious ; here the very 
aspect of the victorious is hated as if health, success, strength, 
pride, and the sense of power were in themselves things vicious, 
for which one ought eventually to make bitter expiation. Oh, 
how these people would themselves like to inflict the expiation, 
how they thirst to be the hangmen ! And all the while their 
duplicity never confesses their hatred to be hatred." x 

Poor Nietzsche's antipathy is itself sickly enough, but 
I quote him as expressing forcibly the world-old clash 
between the two ideals. The carnivorous-minded i strong 
man/ the adult male and cannibal, can see nothing but 
mouldiness and morbidness in the saint's gentleness and 
self-severity, and regards him with pure loathing. The 
whole feud revolves essentially upon two pivots : Shall 
the seen world or the unseen world be our chief sphere 
of adaptation ? and must our means of adaptation in this 
seen world be aggressiveness or non-resistance ? 

1 Zur Genealogie der Moral, Dritte Abhandlung, 14. I have abridged, 
and in one place transposed, a sentence. 


The debate is serious. In some sense and to some 
degree both worlds must be acknowledged and taken ac- 
count of ; and in the seen world both aggressiveness and 
non-resistance are needful. It is a question of emphasis, 
of more or less. Is the saint's type or the strong-man's 
type the more ideal ? 

It has often been supposed, and even now, I think, 
it is supposed by most persons, that there can be one 
intrinsically ideal type of human character. A certain 
kind of man, it is imagined, must be the best man abso- 
lutely and apart from the utility of his function, apart 
from economical considerations. The saint's type, and 
the knight's or gentleman's type, have always been rival 
claimants of this absolute ideality ; and in the ideal of 
military religious orders both types were in a manner 
blended. According to the empirical philosophy, how- 
ever, all ideals are matters of relation. It would be 
absurd, for example, to ask for a definition of ' the ideal 
horse,' so long as dragging drays and running races, 
bearing children, and jogging about with tradesmen's 
packages all remain as indispensable differentiations of 
equine function. You may take what you call a general 
all-round animal as a compromise, but he will be inferior 
to any horse of a more specialized type, in some one 
particular direction. We must not forget this now when, 
in discussing saintliness, we ask if it be an ideal type of 
manhood. We must test it by its economical relations. 

I think that the method which Mr. Spencer uses in his 
Data of Ethics will help to fix our opinion. Ideality in 
conduct is altogether a matter of adaptation. A society 
where all were invariably aggressive would destroy itself 
by inner friction, and in a society where some are aggres- 
sive, others must be non-resistant, if there is to be any 
kind of order. This is the present constitution of soci- 


ety, and to the mixture we owe many of our blessings. 
But the aggressive members of society are always tending 
to become bullies, robbers, and swindlers ; and no one 
believes that such a state of things as we now live in is 
the millennium. It is meanwhile quite possible to con- 
ceive an imaginary society in which there should be no 
aggressiveness, but only sympathy and fairness, any 
small community of true friends now realizes such a so- 
ciety. Abstractly considered, such a society on a large 
scale would be the millennium, for every good thing 
might be realized there with no expense of friction. To 
such a millennial society the saint would be entirely 
adapted. His peaceful modes of appeal would be effica- 
cious over his companions, and there would be no one 
extant to take advantage of his non-resistance. The 
saint is therefore abstractly a higher type of man than 
the ' strong man,' because he is adapted to the highest 
society conceivable, whether that society ever be con- 
cretely possible or not. The strong man would immedi- 
ately tend by his presence to make that society deteriorate. 
It would become inferior in everything save in a certain 
kind of bellicose excitement, dear to men as they now are. 
But if we turn from the abstract question to the actual 
situation, we find that the individual saint may be well or 
ill adapted, according to particular circumstances. There 
is, in short, no absoluteness in the excellence of saint- 
hood. It must be confessed that as far as this world 
goes, any one who makes an out-and-out saint of him- 
self does so at his peril. If he is not a large enough 
man, he may appear more insignificant and contemptible, 
for all his saintship, than if he had remained a world- 
ling. 1 Accordingly religion has seldom been so radically 

1 We all know daft saints, and they inspire a queer kind of aversion. 
But in comparing saints with strong men we must choose individuals on 


taken in our Western world that the devotee could not 
mix it with some worldly temper. It has always found 
good men who could follow most of its impulses, but 
who stopped short when it came to non-resistance. Christ 
himself was fierce upon occasion. Crom wells, Stonewall 
Jacksons, Gordons, show that Christians can be strong 
men also. 

How is success to be absolutely measured when there 
are so many environments and so many ways of looking 
at the adaptation ? It cannot be measured absolutely ; 
the verdict will vary according to the point of view 
adopted. From the biological point of view Saint Paul 
was a failure, because he was beheaded. Yet he was 
magnificently adapted to the larger environment of his- 
tory ; and so far as any saint's example is a leaven of 
righteousness in the world, and draws it in the direction 
of more prevalent habits of saintliness, he is a success, 
no matter what his immediate bad fortune may be. The 
greatest saints, the spiritual heroes whom every one 
acknowledges, the Francises, Bernards, Luthers, Loyo- 
las, Wesleys, Channings, Moodys, Gratrys, the Phillips 
Brookses, the Agnes Joneses, Margaret Hallahans, and 
Dora Pattisons, are successes from the outset. They 
show themselves, and there is no question ; every one 
perceives their strength and stature. Their sense of 
mystery in things, their passion, their goodness, irradiate 
about them and enlarge their outlines while they soften 
them. They are like pictures with an atmosphere and 
background ; and, placed alongside of them, the strong 
men of this world and no other seem as dry as sticks, as 
hard and crude as blocks of stone or brickbats. 

the same intellectual level. The under-witted strong man, homologous 
in his sphere with the under-witted saint, is the bully of the slums, the 
hooligan or rowdy. Surely on this level also the saint preserves a certain 


In a general way, then, and ' on the whole,' 1 our 
abandonment of theological criteria, and our testing of 
religion by practical common sense and the empirical 
method, leave it in possession of its towering place in 
history. Economically, the saintly group of qualities is 
indispensable to the world's welfare. The great saints 
are immediate successes ; the smaller ones are at least 
heralds and harbingers, and they may be leavens also, of 
a better mundane order. Let us be saints, then, if we 
can, whether or not we succeed visibly and temporally. 
But in our Father's house are many mansions, and each 
of us must discover for himself the kind of religion and 
the amount of saintship which best comports with what 
he believes to be his powers and feels to be his truest 
mission and vocation. There are no successes to be guar- 
anteed and no set orders to be given to individuals, so 
long as we follow the methods of empirical philosophy. 

This is my conclusion so far. I know that on some 
of your minds it leaves a feeling of wonder that such a 
method should have been applied to such a subject, and 
this in spite of all those remarks about empiricism which 
I made at the beginning of Lecture XIII. 2 How, you 
say, can religion, which believes in two worlds and an 
invisible order, be estimated by the adaptation of its 
fruits to this world's order alone? It is its truth, not 
its utility, you insist, upon which our verdict ought to 
depend. If religion is true, its fruits are good fruits, 
even though in this world they should prove uniformly 
ill adapted and full of naught but pathos. It goes back, 
then, after all, to the question of the truth of theology. 
The plot inevitably thickens upon us ; we cannot escape 
theoretical considerations. I propose, then, that to some 

1 See above, p. 327. 2 Above, pp. 327-334. 


degree we face the responsibility. Religious persons 
have often, though not uniformly, professed to see truth 
in a special manner. That manner is known as mysti- 
cism. I will consequently now proceed to treat at some 
length of mystical phenomena, and after that, though 
more briefly, I will consider religious philosophy. 



OVER and over again in these lectures I have raised 
points and left them open and unfinished until we 
should have come to the subject of Mysticism. Some of 
you, I fear, may have smiled as you noted my reiterated 
postponements. But now the hour has come when mys- 
ticism must be faced in good earnest, and those broken 
threads wound up together. One may say truly, I think, 
that personal religious experience has its root and centre 
in mystical states of consciousness ; so for us, who in 
these lectures are treating personal experience as the 
exclusive subject of our study, such states of conscious- 
ness ought to form the vital chapter from which the 
other chapters get their light. Whether my treatment 
of mystical states will shed more light or darkness, I do 
not know, for my own constitution shuts me out from 
their enjoyment almost entirely, and I can speak of them 
only at second hand. But though forced to look upon 
the subject so externally, I will be as objective and re- 
ceptive as I can ; and I think I shall at least succeed in 
convincing you of the reality of the states in question, 
and of the paramount importance of their function. 

First of all, then, I ask, What does the expression 
' mystical states of consciousness ' mean ? How do we 
part off mystical states from other states ? 

The words ' mysticism ' and * mystical ' are often used 
as terms of mere reproach, to throw at any opinion which 
we regard as vague and vast and sentimental, and with- 


*vw frl & vv v. - ' 


out a base in either facts or logic. For some writers a 
1 mystic ' is any person who believes in thought-transfer- 
ence, or spirit-return. Employed in this way the word 
has little value : there are too many less ambiguous syn- 
onyms. So, to keep it useful by restricting it, I will do 
what I did in the case of the word c religion,' and simply 
propose to you four marks which, when an experience 
has them, may justify us in calling it mystical for the 
purpose of the present lectures. In this way we shall 
save verbal disputation, and the recriminations that gen- 
erally go therewith. 

1. Ineff ability. The handiest of the marks by which 
I classify a state of mind as mystical is negative. The 
subject of it immediately says that it defies expression, 
that no adequate report of its contents can be given in 
words. It follows from this that its quality must be 
directly experienced ; it cannot be imparted or trans- 
ferred to others. In this peculiarity mystical states are 
more like states of feeling than like states of intellect. 
No one can make clear to another who has never had a 
certain feeling, in what the quality or worth of it con- 
sists. One must have musical ears to know the value of 
a symphony ; one must have been in love one's self to 
understand a lover's state of mind. Lacking the heart 
or ear, we cannot interpret the musician or the lover 
justly, and are even likely to consider him weak-minded 
or absurd. The mystic finds that most of us accord to 
his experiences an equally incompetent treatment. 

2. Noetic quality. Although so similar to states of 
feeling, mystical states seem to those who experience 
them to be' also states of knowledge. They are states of 
insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive 
intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of sig- 
nificance and importance, all inarticulate though they 


remain ; and as a rule they carry with them a curious 
sense of authority for after-time. 

These two characters will entitle any state to be called 
mystical, in the sense in which I use the word. Two 
other qualities are less sharply marked, but are usually 
found. These are : 

3. Transiency. Mystical states cannot be sustained 
for long. Except in rare instances, half an hour, or at 
most an hour or two, seems to be the limit beyond which 
they fade into the light of common day. Often, when 
faded, their quality can but imperfectly be reproduced in 
memory ; but when they recur it is recognized ; and from 
one recurrence to another it is susceptible of continuous 
development in what is felt as inner richness and impor- 

4. Passivity. Although the oncoming of mystical 
states may be facilitated by preliminary voluntary opera- 
tions, as by fixing the attention, or going through certain 
bodily performances, or in other ways which manuals of 
mysticism prescribe ; yet when the characteristic sort of 
consciousness once has set in, the mystic feels as if his 
own will were in abeyance, and indeed sometimes as if 
he were grasped and held by a superior power. This 
latter peculiarity connects mystical states with certain 
definite phenomena of secondary or alternative person- 
ality, such as prophetic speech, automatic writing, or the 
mediumistic trance. When these latter conditions are 
well pronounced, however, there may be no recollection 
whatever of the phenomenon, and it may have no sig- 
nificance for the subject's usual inner life, to which, as 
it were, it makes a mere interruption. Mystical states, 
strictly so called, are never merely interruptive. Some 
memory of their content always remains, and a profound 
sense of their importance. They modify the inner life 


of the subject between the times of their recurrence. 
Sharp divisions in this region are, however, difficult to 
make, and we find all sorts of gradations and mixtures. 

These four characteristics are sufficient to mark out a 
group of states of consciousness peculiar enough to 
deserve a special name and to call for careful study. 
Let it then be called the mystical group. 

Our next step should be to gain acquaintance with 
some typical examples. Professional mystics at the height 
of their development have often elaborately organized 
experiences and a philosophy based thereupon. But you 
remember what I said in my first lecture : phenomena are 
best understood when placed within their series, studied 
in their germ and in their over-ripe decay, and compared 
with their exaggerated and degenerated kindred. The 
range of mystical experience is very wide, much too wide 
for us to cover in the time at our disposal. Yet the 
method of serial study is so essential for interpretation 
that if we really wish to reach conclusions we must use 
it. I will begin, therefore, with phenomena which claim 
no special religious significance, and end with those of 
which the religious pretensions are extreme. 

The simplest rudiment of mystical experience would 
seem to be that deepened sense of the significance of a 
maxim or formula which occasionally sweeps over one. 
" I 've heard that said all my life," we exclaim, " but I 
never realized its full meaning until now." " When a 
fellow-monk," said Luther, " one day repeated the words 
of the Creed : ' I believe in the forgiveness of sins,' I saw 
the Scripture in an entirely new light ; and straightway 
I felt as if I were born anew. It was as if I had found 
the door of paradise thrown wide open." 1 This sense 

1 Newman's Securus judical orbis terrarum is another instance. 


of deeper significance is not confined to rational proposi- 
tions. Single words, 1 and conjunctions of words, effects 
of light on land and sea, odors and musical sounds, all 
bring it when the mind is tuned aright. Most of us can 
remember the strangely moving power of passages in cer- 
tain poems read when we were young, irrational door- 
ways as they were through which the mystery of fact, 
the wildness and the pang of life, stole into our hearts 
and thrilled them. The words have now perhaps become 
mere polished surfaces for us ; but lyric poetry and music 
are alive and significant only in proportion as they fetch 
these vague vistas of a life continuous with our own, 
beckoning and inviting, yet ever eluding our pursuit. 
We are alive or dead to the eternal inner message of the 
arts according as we have kept or lost this mystical sus- 

A more pronounced step forward on the mystical lad- 
der is found in an extremely frequent phenomenon, that 
sudden feeling, namely, which sometimes sweeps over us, 
of having ' been here before,' as if at some indefinite past 
time, in just this place, with just these people, we were 
already saying just these things. As Tennyson writes : 

" Moreover, something is or seems, 
That touches me with mystic gleams, 
Like glimpses of forgotten dreams 

" Of something felt, like something here ; 
Of something done, I know not where ; 
Such as no language may declare." 2 

1 'Mesopotamia' is the stock comic instance. An excellent old German 
lady, who had done some traveling in her day, used to describe to me her 
Sehnsucht that she might yet visit ' Philadelphia,' whose wondrous name 
had always haunted her imagination. Of John Foster it is said that " single 
words (as chalcedony), or the names of ancient heroes, had a mighty fasci- 
nation over him. ' At any time the word hermit was enough to transport 
him.' The words woods and forests would produce the most powerful emo- 
tion." Foster's Life, by Ryland, New York, 1846, p. 3. 

2 The Two Voices. In a letter to Mr. B. P. Blood, Tennyson reports of 
himself as follows : 


Sir James Crickton-Browne has given the technical name 
of ' dreamy states ' to these sudden invasions of vaguely 
reminiscent consciousness. 1 They bring a sense of mys- 
tery and of the metaphysical duality of things, and the 
feeling of an enlargement of perception which seems im- 
minent but -which never completes itself. In Dr. Crich- 
ton-Browne's opinion they connect themselves with the 
perplexed and scared disturbances of self-consciousness 
which occasionally precede epileptic attacks. I think 
that this learned alienist takes a rather absurdly alarmist 
view of an intrinsically insignificant phenomenon. He 
follows it along the downward ladder, to insanity ; our 
path pursues the upward ladder chiefly. The divergence 
shows how important it is to neglect no part of a phe- 
nomenon's connections, for we make it appear admirable 
or dreadful according to the context by which we set 
it off. 

Somewhat deeper plunges into mystical consciousness 
are met with in yet other dreamy states. Such feelings 

" I have never had any revelations through anaesthetics, but a kind of 
waking trance this for lack of a better word I have frequently had, 
quite up from boyhood, when I have been all alone. This has come upon 
me through repeating my own name to myself silently, till all at once, as it 
were out of the intensity of the consciousness of individuality, individuality 
itself seemed to dissolve and fade away into boundless being, and this not 
a confused state but the clearest, the surest of the surest, utterly beyond 
words where death was an almost laughable impossibility the loss of 
personality (if so it were) seeming no extinction, but the only true life. I 
am ashamed of my feeble description. Have I not said the state is utterly 
beyond words ? " 

Professor Tyndall, in a letter, recalls Tennyson saying of this condition : 
" By God Almighty ! there is no delusion in the matter ! It is no nebulous 
ecstasy, but a state of transcendent wonder, associated with absolute clear- 
ness of mind." Memoirs of Alfred Tennyson, ii. 473. 

1 The Lancet, July 6 and 13, 1895, reprinted as the Cavendish Lecture, 
on Dreamy Mental States, London, Bailliere, 1895. They have been a 
good deal discussed of late by psychologists. See, for example, Bernard- 
Leroy : L'lllusion de Fausse Reconnaissance, Paris, 1898. 


as these which Charles Kingsley describes are surely far 
from being uncommon, especially in youth : 

" When I walk the fields, I am oppressed now and then with 
an innate feeling that everything I see has a meaning, if I 
could but understand it. And this feeling of being surrounded 
with truths which I cannot grasp amounts to indescribable awe 
sometimes. ... Have you not felt that your real soul was 
imperceptible to your mental vision, except in a few hallowed 
moments ? " 1 

A much more extreme state of mystical consciousness 
is described by J. A. Symonds ; and probably more per- 
sons than we suspect could give parallels to it from their 
own experience. 

" Suddenly," writes Symonds, " at church, or in company, or 
when I was reading, and always, I think, when my muscles 
were at rest, I felt the approach of the mood. Irresistibly it 
took possession of my mind and will, lasted what seemed an 
eternity, and disappeared in a series of rapid sensations which 
resembled the awakening from anaesthetic influence. One rea- 
son why I disliked this kind of trance was that I could not 
describe it to myself. I cannot even now find words to render 
it intelligible. It consisted in a gradual but swiftly progressive 
obliteration of space, time, sensation, and the multitudinous 
factors of experience which seem to qualify what we are pleased 
to call our Self. In proportion as these conditions of ordinary 
consciousness were subtracted, the sense of an underlying or 
essential consciousness acquired intensity. At last nothing 
remained but a pure, absolute, abstract Self. The universe 
became without form and void of content. But Self persisted, 
formidable in its vivid keenness, feeling the most poignant 
doubt about reality, ready, as it seemed, to find existence break 
as breaks a bubble round about it. And what then ? The 
apprehension of a coming dissolution, the grim conviction that 
this state was the last state of the conscious Self, the sense that 

1 Charles Kingsley's Life, i. 55, quoted by Inge : Christian Mysticism, 
London, 1899, p. 341. 


I had followed the last thread of being to the verge of the 
abyss, and had arrived at demonstration of eternal Maya or 
illusion, stirred or seemed to stir me up again. The return to 
ordinary conditions of sentient existence began by my first 
recovering the power of touch, and then by the gradual though 
rapid influx of familiar impressions and diurnal interests. At 
last I felt myself once more a human being ; and though the 
riddle of what is meant by life remained unsolved, I was thank- 
ful for this return from the abyss this deliverance from so 
awful an initiation into the mysteries of skepticism. 

" This trance recurred with diminishing frequency until I 
reached the age of twenty-eight. It served to impress upon my 
growing nature the phantasmal unreality of all the circum- 
stances which contribute to a merely phenomenal consciousness. 
Often have I asked myself with anguish, on waking from that 
formless state of denuded, keenly sentient being, Which is the 
unreality? the trance of fiery, vacant, apprehensive, skeptical 
Self from which I issue, or these surrounding phenomena and 
habits which veil that inner Self and build a self of flesh-and- 
blood conventionality ? Again, are men the factors of some 
dream, the dream-like unsubstantiality of which they compre- 
hend at such eventful moments ? What would happen if the 
final stage of the trance were reached ? " 1 

In a recital like this there is certainly something sug- 
gestive of pathology. 2 The next step into mystical states 
carries us into a realm that public opinion and ethical 
philosophy have long since branded as pathological, 
though private practice and certain lyric strains of poetry 

1 H. F. Brown : J. A. Symonds, a Biography, London, 1895, pp. 29-31, 

2 Crichton-Browne expressly says that Symonds's " highest nerve centres 
were in some degree enfeebled or damaged by these dreamy mental states 
which afflicted him so grievously." Symonds was, however, a perfect 
monster of many-sided cerebral efficiency, and his critic gives no objective 
grounds whatever for his strange opinion, save that Symonds complained 
occasionally, as all susceptible and ambitious men complain, of lassitude 
and uncertainty as to his life's mission. 


seem still to bear witness to its ideality. I refer to the 
consciousness produced by intoxicants and anaesthetics, 
especially by alcohol. The sway of alcohol over man- 
kind is unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the 
mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to 
earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of the sober 
hour. Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says no ; 
drunkenness expands, unites, and says yes. It is in fact 
the great exciter of the Yes function in man. It brings 
its votary from the chill periphery of things to the radi- 
ant core. It makes him for the moment one with truth. 
Not through mere perversity do men run after it. To the 
poor and the unlettered it stands in the place of symphony 
concerts and of literature ; and it is part of the deeper 
mystery and tragedy of life that whiffs and gleams of 
something that we immediately recognize as excellent 
should be vouchsafed to so many of us only in the fleet- 
ing earlier phases of what in its totality is so degrading 
a poisoning. The drunken consciousness is one bit of the 
mystic consciousness, and our total opinion of it must 
find its place in our opinion of that larger whole. 

Nitrous oxide and ether, especially nitrous oxide, 
when sufficiently diluted with air, stimulate the mystical 
consciousness in an extraordinary degree. Depth beyond 
depth of truth seems revealed to the inhaler. This truth 
fades out, however, or escapes, at the moment of coming 
to ; and if any words remain over in which it seemed to 
clothe itself, they prove to be the veriest nonsense. Never- 
theless, the sense of a profound meaning having been 
there persists ; and I know more than one person who is 
persuaded that in the nitrous oxide trance we have a 
genuine metaphysical revelation. 

Some years ago I myself made some observations on 
this aspect of nitrous oxide intoxication, and reported 


them in print. One conclusion was forced upon my mind 
at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever 
since remained unshaken. It is that our normal wak- 
ing consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is 
but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about 
it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie 
potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We 
may go through life without suspecting their existence ; 
but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are 
there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality 
which probably somewhere have their field of application 
and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality 
can be final which leaves these other forms of conscious- 
ness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the ques- 
tion, for they are so discontinuous with ordinary con- 
sciousness. Yet they may determine attitudes though 
they cannot furnish formulas, and open a region though 
they fail to give a map. At any rate, they forbid a 
premature closing of our accounts with reality. Looking 
back on my own experiences, they all converge towards a 
kind of insight to which I cannot help ascribing some 
metaphysical significance. The keynote of it is invariably 
a reconciliation. It is as if the opposites of the world, 
whose contradictoriness and conflict make all our difficul- 
ties and troubles, were melted into unity. Not only do 
they, as contrasted species, belong to one and the same 
genus, but one of the species, the nobler and better 
one, is itself the genus, and so soaks up and absorbs 
its opposite into itself This is a dark saying, I know, 
when thus expressed in terms of common logic, but I 
cannot wholly escape from its authority. I feel as if it 
must mean something, something like what the hegelian 
philosophy means, if one could only lay hold of it more 
clearly. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear; 


to me the living sense of its reality only comes in the 
artificial mystic state of mind. 1 

I just now spoke of friends who believe in the anaes- 
thetic revelation. For them too it is a monistic insight, 
in which the other in its various forms appears absorbed 
into the One. 

" Into this pervading - genius," writes one of them, " we pass, 
forgetting and forgotten, and thenceforth each is all, in God. 
There is no higher, no deeper, no other, than the life in which 
we are founded. ' The One remains, the many change and 
pass ; ' and each and every one of us is the One that remains. 
. . . This is the ultimatum. . . . As sure as being whence 
is all our care so sure is content, beyond duplexity, antithesis, 
or trouble, where I have triumphed in a solitude that God is 
not above." 2 

1 What reader of Hegel can doubt that that sense of a perfected Being 
with all its otherness soaked up into itself, which dominates his whole 
philosophy, must have come from the prominence in his consciousness of 
mystical moods like this, in most persons kept subliminal ? The notion is 
thoroughly characteristic of the mystical level, and the Aufgabe of making it 
articulate was surely set to Hegel's intellect by mystical feeling. 

2 Benjamin Paul Blood : The Anaesthetic Revelation and the Gist of 
Philosophy, Amsterdam, N. Y., 1874, pp. 35, 36. Mr. Blood has made 
several attempts to adumbrate the ansesthetic revelation, in pamphlets of 
rare literary distinction, privately printed and distributed by himself at 
Amsterdam. Xenos Clark, a philosopher, who died young at Amherst in 
the '80's, much lamented by those who knew him, was also impressed by 
the revelation. " In the first place," he once wrote to me, "Mr. Blood and 
I agree that the revelation is, if anything, non-emotional. It is utterly flat. 
It is, as Mr. Blood says, 'the one sole and sufficient insight why, or not 
why, but how, the present is pushed on by the past, and sucked forward by 
the vacuity of the future. Its inevitableness defeats all attempts at stop- 
ping or accounting for it. It is all precedence and presupposition, and 
questioning is in regard to it forever too late. It is an initiation of the past.' 
The real secret would be the formula by which the ' now ' keeps exfoliating 
out of itself, yet never escapes. What is it, indeed, that keeps existence 
exfoliating ? The formal being of anything, the logical definition of it, is 
static. For mere logic every question contains its own answer we simply 
fill the hole with the dirt we dug out. Why are twice two four ? Because, 
in fact, four is twice two. Thus logic finds in life no propulsion, only a mo- 
mentum. It goes because it is a-going. But the revelation adds : it goes 


This has the genuine religious mystic ring ! I just 
now quoted J. A. Symonds. He also records a mystical 
experience with chloroform, as follows : 

because it is and was a-going. You walk, as it were, round yourself in the 
revelation. Ordinary philosophy is like a hound hunting his own trail. 
The more he hunts the farther he has to go, and his nose never catches up 
with his heels, because it is forever ahead of them. So the present is al- 
ready a foregone conclusion, and I am ever too late to understand it. But 
at the moment of recovery from ansesthesis, just then, before starting on life, 
I catch, so to speak, a glimpse of my heels, a glimpse of the eternal pro- 
cess just in the act of starting. The truth is that we travel on a journey 
that was accomplished before we set out ; and the real end of philosophy is 
accomplished, not when we arrive at, but when we remain in, our destina- 
tion (being already there), which may occur vicariously in this life when 
we cease our intellectual questioning. That is why there is a smile upon 
the face of the revelation, as we view it. It tells us that we are forever 
half a second too late that 's all. < You could kiss your own lips, and 
have all the fun to yourself,' it says, if you only knew the trick. It would 
be perfectly easy if they would just stay there till you got round to them. 
Why don't you manage it somehow ? " 

Dialectically minded readers of this farrago will at least recognize the 
region of thought of which Mr. Clark writes, as familiar. In his latest 
pamphlet, ' Tennyson's Trances and the Anaesthetic Revelation,' Mr. Blood 
describes its value for life as follows : 

" The Anaesthetic Revelation is the Initiation of Man into the Immemo- 
rial Mystery of the Open Secret of Being, revealed as the Inevitable Vor- 
tex of Continuity. Inevitable is the word. Its motive is inherent it is 
what has to be. It is not for any love or hate, nor for joy nor sorrow, nor 
good nor ill. End, beginning, or purpose, it knows not of. 
' " It affords no particular of the multiplicity and variety of things ; but it 
fills appreciation of the historical and the sacred with a secular and inti- 
mately personal illumination of the nature and motive of existence, which 
then seems reminiscent as if it should have appeared, or shall yet appear, 
to every participant thereof. 

"Although it is at first startling in its solemnity, it becomes directly 
such a matter of course so old-fashioned, and so akin to proverbs, that it 
inspires exultation rather than fear, and a sense of safety, as identified with 
the aboriginal and the universal. But no words may express the imposing 
certainty of the patient that he is realizing the primordial, Adamic surprise 
of Life. 

" Repetition of the experience finds it ever the same, and as if it could 
not possibly be otherwise. The subject resumes his normal consciousness 
only to partially and fitfully remember its occurrence, and to try to formu- 
late its baffling import, with only this consolatory afterthought : that he 


" After the choking and stifling had passed away, I seemed 
at first in a state of utter blankness ; then came flashes of 
intense light, alternating with blackness, and with a keen vision 
of what was going on in the room around me, but no sensation 
of touch. I thought that I was near death ; when, suddenly, 
my soul became aware of God, who was manifestly dealing with 
me, handling me, so to speak, in an intense personal present 
reality. I felt him streaming in like light upon me. ... I 
cannot describe the ecstasy I felt. Then, as I gradually awoke 
from the influence of the anaesthetics, the old sense of my rela- 
tion to the world began to return, the new sense of my relation 
to God began to fade. I suddenly leapt to my feet on the 
chair where I was sitting, and shrieked out, ' It is too horrible, 
it is too horrible, it is too horrible,' meaning that I could not 
bear this disillusionment. Then I flung myself on the ground, 
and at last awoke covered with blood, calling to the two sur- 
geons (who were frightened), ' Why did you not kill me ? 
Why would you not let me die ? ' Only think of it. To have 
felt for that long dateless ecstasy of vision the very God, in all 
purity and tenderness and truth and absolute love, and then to 
find that I had after all had no revelation, but that I had been 
tricked by the abnormal excitement of my brain. 

has known the oldest truth, and that he has done with human theories as to 
the origin, meaning, or destiny of the race. He is beyond instruction in 
1 spiritual things.' 

" The lesson is one of central safety : the Kingdom is within. All days are 
judgment days : but there can be no climacteric purpose of eternity, nor any 
scheme of the whole. The astronomer abridges the row of bewildering 
figures by increasing his unit of measurement : so may we reduce the 
distracting multiplicity of things to the unity for which each of us stands. 

" This has been my moral sustenance since I have known of it. In my 
first printed mention of it I declared : ' The world is no more the alien 
terror that was taught me. Spurning the cloud-grimed and still sultry 
battlements whence so lately Jehovan thunders boomed, my gray gull lifts 
her wing against the nightfall, and takes the dim leagues with a fearless 
eye.' And now, after twenty-seven years of this experience, the wing is 
grayer, but the eye is fearless still, while I renew and doubly emphasize 
that declaration. I know as having known the meaning of Existence : 
the sane centre of the universe at once the wonder and the assurance of 
the soul for which the speech of reason has as yet no name but the Anaes- 
thetic Revelation." I have considerably abridged the quotation. 


" Yet, this question remains, Is it possible that the inner 
sense of reality which succeeded, when my flesh was dead to 
impressions from without, to the ordinary sense of physical 
relations, was not a delusion but an actual experience ? Is it 
possible that I, in that moment, felt what some of the saints 
have said they always felt, the undemonstrable but irrefragable 
certainty of God ? " * 

1 Op. cit., pp. 78-80, abridged. I subjoin, also abridging it, another 
interesting anaesthetic revelation communicated to me in manuscript by a 
friend in England. The subject, a gifted woman, was taking ether for a 
surgical operation. 

" I wondered if I was in a prison being tortured, and why I remembered 
having heard it said that people ' learn through suffering,' and in view of 
what I was seeing, the inadequacy of this saying struck me so much that I 
said, aloud, ' to suffer is to learn.' 

" With that I became unconscious again, and my last dream immediately 
preceded my real coming to. It only lasted a few seconds, and was most 
vivid and real to me, though it may not be clear in words. 

" A great Being or Power was traveling through the sky, his foot was on 
a kind of lightning as a wheel is on a rail, it was his pathway. The light- 
ning was made entirely of the spirits of innumerable people close to one 
another, and I was one of them. He moved in a straight line, and each part 
of the streak or flash came into its short conscious existence only that he 
might travel. I seemed to be directly under the foot of God, and I thought 
he was grinding his own life up out of my pain. Then I saw that what he 
had been trying with all his might to do was to change his course, to bend the 
line of lightuing to which he was tied, in the direction in which he wanted 
to go. I felt my flexibility and helplessness, and knew that he would suc- 
ceed. He bended me, turning his corner by means of my hurt, hurting me 
more than I had ever been hurt in my life, and at the acutest point of this, 
as he passed, I saw. I understood for a moment things that I have now 
forgotten, things that no one could remember while retaining sanity. The 
angle was an obtuse angle, and I remember thinking as I woke that had he 
made it a right or acute angle, I should have both suffered and ' seen ' still 
more, and should probably have died. 

" He went on and I came to. In that moment the whole of my life 
passed before me, including each little meaningless piece of distress, and 
I understood them. This was what it had all meant, this was the piece of 
work it had all been contributing to do. I did not see God's purpose, I 
only saw his intentness and his entire relentlessness towards his means. 
He thought no more of me than a man thinks of hurting a cork when he is 
opening wine, or hurting a cartridge when he is firing. And yet, on wak- 
ing, my first feeling was, and it came with tears, ' Domine non sum digna,' 
for I had been lifted into a position for which I was too small. I realized 


With this we make connection with religious mysti- 
cism pure and simple. Symonds's question takes us back 
to those examples which you will remember my quoting 
in the lecture on the Reality of the Unseen, of sudden 
realization of the immediate presence of God. The 
phenomenon in one shape or another is not uncommon. 

" I know," writes Mr. Trine, " an officer on our police force 
who has told me that many times when off duty, and on his 
way home in the evening, there comes to him such a vivid and 
vital realization of his oneness with this Infinite Power, and 
this Spirit of Infinite Peace so takes hold of and so fills him, 

that in that half hour under ether I had served God more distinctly and 
purely than I had ever done in my life before, or than I am capable of 
desiring to do. I was the means of his achieving and revealing something, 
I know not what or to whom, and that, to the exact extent of my capacity 
for suffering. 

" While regaining consciousness, I wondered why, since I had gone so 
deep, I had seen nothing of what the saints call the love of God, nothing 
but his relentlessness. And then I heard an answer, which I could only 
just catch, saying, ' Knowledge and Love are One, and the measure is suf- 
fering ' I give the words as- they came to me. With that I came finally 
to (into what seemed a dream world compared with the reality of what I 
was leaving), and I saw that what would be called the ' cause ' of my expe- 
rience was a slight operation under insufficient ether, in a bed pushed up 
against a window, a common city window in a common city street. If I 
had to formulate a few of the things I then caught a glimpse of, they would 
run somewhat as follows : 

" The eternal necessity of suffering and its eternal vicariousness. The 
veiled and incommunicable nature of the worst sufferings ; the passivity 
of genius, how it is essentially instrumental and defenseless, moved, not 
moving, it must do what it does ; the impossibility of discovery without 
its price ; finally, the excess of what the suffering ' seer ' or genius pays 
over what his generation gains. (He seems like one who sweats his life 
out to earn enough to save a district from famine, and just as he staggers 
back, dying and satisfied, bringing a lac of rupees to buy grain with, God 
lifts the lac away, dropping one rupee, and says, ' That you may give them. 
That you have earned for them. The rest is for ME.') I perceived also in 
a way never to be forgotten, the excess of what we see over what we can 

"And so on ! these things may seem to you delusions, or truisms ; but 
for me they are dark truths, and the power to put them into even such 
words as these has been given me by an ether dream." 


that it seems as if his feet could hardly keep to the pavement, 
so buoyant and so exhilarated does he become by reason of 
this inflowing tide." 1 

Certain aspects of nature seem to /have a peculiar 
power of awakening such mystical moods. 2 Most of the 
striking cases which I have collected have occurred out 
of doors. Literature has commemorated this fact in many 
passages of great beauty this extract, for example, 
from Amiel's Journal Intinie : 

" Shall I ever again have any of those prodigious reveries 
which sometimes came to me in former days ? One day, in 

1 In Tune with the Infinite, p. 137. 

2 The larger God may then swallow up the smaller one. I take this 
from Starbuck's manuscript collection : 

" I never lost the consciousness of the presence of God until I stood at 
the foot of the Horseshoe Falls, Niagara. Then I lost him in the immen- 
sity of what I saw. I also lost myself, feeling that I was an atom too small 
for the notice of Almighty God." 

I subjoin another similar case from Starbuck's collection : 
" In that time the consciousness of God's nearness came to me some- 
times. I say God, to describe what is indescribable. A presence, I might say, 
yet that is too suggestive of personality, and the moments of which I speak 
did not hold the consciousness of a personality, but something in myself 
made me feel myself a part of something bigger than I, that was control- 
ling. I felt myself one with the grass, the trees, birds, insects, everything in 
Nature. I exulted in the mere fact of existence, of being a part of it all 
the drizzling rain, the shadows of the clouds, the tree-trunks, and so on. 
In the years following, such moments continued to come, but I wanted them 
constantly. I knew so well the satisfaction of losing self in a perception of 
supreme power and love, that I was unhappy because that perception was 
not constant." The cases quoted in my third lecture, pp. 66, 67, 70, are 
still better ones of this type. In her essay, The Loss of Personality, in The 
Atlantic Monthly (vol. lxxxv. p. 195), Miss Ethel D. Puffer explains that the 
vanishing of the sense of self, and the feeling of immediate unity with 
the object, is due to the disappearance, in these rapturous experiences, of 
the motor adjustments which habitually intermediate between the constant 
background of consciousness (which is the Self) and the object in the fore- 
ground, whatever it may be. I must refer the reader to the highly instruc- 
tive article, which seems to me to throw light upon the psychological con- 
ditions, though it fails to account for the rapture or the revelation-value of 
the experience in the Subject's eyes. 


youth, at sunrise, sitting in the ruins of the castle of Faucigny ; 
and again in the mountains, under the noonday sun, above 
Lavey, lying at the foot of a tree and visited by three butter- 
flies ; once more at night upon the shingly shore of the Northern 
Ocean, my back upon the sand and my vision ranging through 
the milky way ; such grand and spacious, immortal, cosmo- 
gonic reveries, when one reaches to the stars, when one owns 
the infinite ! Moments divine, ecstatic hours ; in which our 
thought flies from world to world, pierces the great enigma, 
breathes with a respiration broad, tranquil, and deep as the 
respiration of the ocean, serene and limitless as the blue firma- 
ment ; . . . instants of irresistible intuition in which one feels 
one's self great as the universe, and calm as a god. . . . What 
hours, what memories ! The vestiges they leave behind are 
enough to fill us with belief and enthusiasm, as if they were 
visits of the Holy Ghost." 1 

Here is a similar record from the memoirs of that 
interesting German idealist, Malwida von Meysenbug : 

" I was alone upon the seashore as all these thoughts flowed 
over me, liberating and reconciling ; and now again, as once 
before in distant days in the Alps of Dauphine, I was impelled 
to kneel down, this time before the illimitable ocean, symbol of 
the Infinite. I felt that I prayed as I had never prayed before, 
and knew now what prayer really is : to return from the soli- 
tude of individuation into the consciousness of unity with all 
that is, to kneel down as one that passes away, and to rise up as 
one imperishable. Earth, heaven, and sea resounded as in one 
vast world-encircling harmony. It was as if the chorus of all 
the great who had ever lived were about me. I felt myself 
one with them, and it appeared as if I heard their greeting : 
' Thou too belongest to the company of those who overcome.' " 2 

The well-known passage from Walt Whitman is a 
classical expression of this sporadic type of mystical ex- 

1 Op. cit., i. 43-^4. 

2 Menioiren einer Idealistin, 5te Auflage, 1900, iii. 166. For years she 
had been unable to pray, owing to materialistic belief. 


" I believe in you, my Soul . . . 

Loaf with rue on the grass, loose the stop from your throat ; . . . 

Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice. 

I mind how once we lay, such a transparent summer morning. 

Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass 

all the argument of the earth, 
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own, 
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own, 
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers and the women my 

sisters and lovers, 
And that a kelson of the creation is love." x 

I could easily give more instances, but one will suffice. 
I take it from the Autobiography of J. Trevor. 2 

" One brilliant Sunday morning, my wife and boys went to 
the Unitarian Chapel in Macclesfield. I felt it impossible to 
accompany them as though to leave the sunshine on the hills, 
and go down there to the chapel, would be for the time an act 
of spiritual suicide. And I felt such need for new inspiration 
and expansion in my life. So, very reluctantly and sadly, I left 
my wife and boys to go down into the town, while I went 
further up into the hills with my stick and my dog. In the 
loveliness of the morning, and the beauty of the hills and val- 
leys, I soon lost my sense of sadness and regret. For nearly 
an hour I walked along the road to the ' Cat and Fiddle,' and 
then returned. On the way back, suddenly, without warning, I 
felt that I was in Heaven an inward state of peace and joy 

1 Whitman in another place expresses in a quieter way what was prob- 
ably with him a chronic mystical perception : " There is," he writes, " apart 
from mere intellect, in the make-up of every superior human identity, a 
wondrous something that realizes without argument, frequently without 
what is called education (though I think it the goal and apex of all educa- 
tion deserving the name), an intuition of the absolute balance, in time 
and space, of the whole of this multifariousness, this revel of fools, and 
incredible make-believe and general unsettledness, we call the world ; a soul- 
sight of that divine clue and unseen thread which holds the whole congeries 
of things, all history and time, and all events, however trivial, however mo- 
mentous, like a leashed dog in the hand of the hunter. [Of] such soul-sight 
and root-centre for the mind mere optimism explains only the surface." 
Whitman charges it against Carlyle that he lacked this perception. Speci- 
men Days and Collect, Philadelphia, 1882, p. 174. 

2 My Quest for God, London, 1897, pp. 268, 209, abridged. 


and assurance indescribably intense, accompanied with a sense 
of being bathed in a warm glow of light, as though the external 
condition had brought about the internal effect a feeling of 
having passed beyond the body, though the scene around me 
stood out more clearly and as if nearer to me than before, by 
reason of the illumination in the midst of which I seemed to be 
placed. This deep emotion lasted, though with decreasing 
strength, until I reached home, and for some time after, only 
gradually passing away." 

The writer adds that having had further experiences of 
a similar sort, he now knows them well. 

" The spiritual life," he writes, " justifies itself to those who 
live it ; but what can we say to those who do not understand ? 
This, at least, we can say, that it is a life whose experiences are 
proved real to their possessor, because they remain with him 
when brought closest into contact with the objective realities of 
life. Dreams cannot stand this test. We wake from them to 
find that they are but dreams. Wanderings of an overwrought 
brain do not stand this test. These highest experiences that I 
have had of God's presence have been rare and brief flashes 
of consciousness which have compelled me to exclaim with sur- 
prise God is here I or conditions of exaltation and insight, 
less intense, and only gradually passing away. I have severely 
questioned the worth of these moments. To no soul have I 
named them, lest I should be building my life and work on 
mere phantasies of the brain. But I find that, after every 
questioning and test, they stand out to-day as the most real 
experiences of my life, and experiences which have explained 
and justified and unified all past experiences and all past 
growth. Indeed, their reality and their far-reaching signifi- 
cance are ever becoming more clear and evident. When they 
came, I was living the fullest, strongest, sanest, deepest life. 
I was not seeking them. What I was seeking, with resolute 
determination, was to live more intensely my own life, as 
against what I knew would be the adverse judgment of the 
world. It was in the most real seasons that the Real Presence 


came, and I was aware that I was immersed in the infinite 
ocean of God." J 

Even the least mystical of you must by this time be 
convinced of the existence of mystical moments as states 
of consciousness of an entirely specific quality, and of the 
deep impression which they make on those who have 
them. A Canadian psychiatrist, Dr. R. M. Bucke, gives 
to the more distinctly characterized of these phenomena 
the name of cosmic consciousness. " Cosmic conscious- 
ness in its more striking instances is not," Dr. Bucke 
says, " simply an expansion or extension of the self-con- 
scious mind with which we are all familiar, but the su- 
peraddition of a function as distinct from any possessed 
by the average man as semiconsciousness is distinct from 
any function possessed by one of the higher animals." 

" The prime characteristic of cosmic consciousness is a con- 
sciousness of the cosmos, that is, of the life and order of the 
universe. Along with the consciousness of the cosmos there 
occurs an intellectual enlightenment which alone would place 
the individual on a new plane of existence would make him 
almost a member of a new species. To this is added a state of 
moral exaltation, an indescribable feeling of elevation, elation, 
and joyousness, and a quickening of the moral sense, which is 
fully as striking, and more important than is the enhanced 
intellectual power. With these come what may be called a 
sense of immortality, a consciousness of eternal life, not a con- 
viction that he shall have this, but the consciousness that he 
has it already." 2 

It was Dr. Bucke's own experience of a typical onset 
of cosmic consciousness in his own person which led him 
to investigate it in others. He has printed his conclu- 
sions in a highly interesting volume, from which I take 
the following account of what occurred to him : 

1 Op. cit., pp. 256, 257, abridged. 

2 Cosmic Consciousness : a study in the evolution of the human Mind. 
Philadelphia, 1901, p. 2. 


" I had spent the evening in a great city, with two friends, 
reading and discussing poetry and philosophy. We parted at 
midnight. I had a long drive in a hansom to my lodging. 
My mind, deeply under the influence of the ideas, images, and 
emotions called up by the reading and talk, was calm and 
peaceful. I was in a state of quiet, almost passive enjoyment, 
not actually thinking, but letting ideas, images, and emotions 
flow of themselves, as it were, through my mind. All at once, 
without warning of any kind, I found myself wrapped in a 
flame-colored cloud. For an instant I thought of fire, an im- 
mense conflagration somewhere close by in that great city ; the 
next, I knew that the fire was within myself. Directly after- 
ward there came upon me a sense of exultation, of immense 
joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by an intellec- 
tual illumination impossible to describe. Among other things, 
I did not merely come to believe, but I saw that the universe 
is not composed of dead matter, but is, on the contrary, a living- 
Presence ; I became conscious in myself of eternal life. It was 
not a conviction that I would have eternal life, but a conscious- 
ness that I possessed eternal life then ; I saw that all men are 
immortal ; that the cosmic order is such that without any per- 
adventure all things work together for the good of each and 
all ; that the foundation principle of the world, of all the 
worlds, is what we call love, and that the happiness of each and 
all is in the long run absolutely certain. The vision lasted a 
few seconds and was gone ; but the memory of it and the sense 
of the reality of what it taught has remained during the quar- 
ter of a century which has since elapsed. I knew that what 
the vision showed was true. I had attained to a point of view 
from which I saw that it must be true. That view, that con- 
viction, I may say that consciousness, has never, even during 
periods of the deepest depression, been lost." 1 

We have now seen enough of this cosmic or mystic 
consciousness, as it comes sporadically. We must next 

1 Loc. cit., pp. 7, 8. My quotation follows the privately printed pam- 
phlet which preceded Dr. Bucke's larger work, and differs verbally a little 
from the text of the latter. 


pass to its methodical cultivation as an element of the 
religious life. Hindus, Buddhists, Mohammedans, and 
Christians all have cultivated it methodically. 

In India, training in mystical insight has been known 
from time immemorial under the name of yoga. Yoga 
means the experimental union of the individual with the 
divine. It is based on persevering exercise ; and the 
diet, posture, breathing, intellectual concentration, and 
moral discipline vary slightly in the different systems 
which teach it. The yogi, or disciple, who has by these 
means overcome the obscurations of his lower nature 
sufficiently, enters into the condition termed samadhi, 
" and comes face to face with facts which no instinct or 
reason can ever know." He learns 

" That the mind itself has a higher state of existence, beyond 
reason, a superconscious state, and that when the mind gets to 
that higher state, then this knowledge beyond reasoning comes. 
. . . All the different steps in yoga are intended to bring us 
scientifically to the superconscious state or samadhi. . . . Just 
as unconscious work is beneath consciousness, so there is another 
work which is above consciousness, and which, also, is not ac- 
companied with the feeling of egoism. . . . There is no feeling 
of /, and yet the mind works, desireless, free from restlessness, 
objectless, bodiless. Then the Truth shines in its full efful- 
gence, and we know ourselves for Samadhi lies potential in 
us all for what we truly are, free, immortal, omnipotent, 
loosed from the finite, and its contrasts of good and evil alto- 
gether, and identical with the Atman or Universal Soul." * 

The Vedantists say that one may stumble into super- 
consciousness sporadically, without the previous disci- 
pline, but it is then impure. Their test of its purity, like 

1 My quotations are from Vivekananda, Raja Yoga, London, 1896. The 
completest source of information on Yoga is the work translated by Vi- 
hari Lala Mitra : Yoga Vasishta Maha Ramayana, 4 vols., Calcutta, 


our test of religion's value, is empirical : its fruits must 
be good for life. When a man comes out of Samadhi, 
they assure us that he remains "enlightened, a sage, a 
prophet, a saint, his whole character changed, his life 
changed, illumined." * 

The Buddhists use the word ' samadhi ' as well as the 
Hindus; but ' dhyana ' is their special word for higher 
states of contemplation. There seem to be four stages 
recognized in dhyana. The first stage comes through 
concentration of the mind upon one point. It excludes 
desire, but not discernment or judgment: it is still intel- 
lectual. In the second stage the intellectual functions 
drop off, and the satisfied sense of unity remains. In 
the third stage the satisfaction departs, and indifference 
begins, along with memory and self-consciousness. In 
the fourth stage the indifference, memory, and self-con- 
sciousness are perfected. [Just what ' memory ' and 
i self-consciousness ' mean in this connection is doubtful. 
They cannot be the faculties familiar to us in the lower 
life.] Higher stages still of contemplation are men- 
tioned a region where there exists nothing, and where 
the meditator says : " There exists absolutely nothing," 
and stops. Then he reaches another region where he 
says : " There are neither ideas nor absence of ideas," 
and stops again. Then another region where, " having 
reached the end of both idea and perception, he stops 

1 A European witness, after carefully comparing the results of Yoga with 
those of the hypnotic or dreamy states artificially producible by us, says : " It 
makes of its true disciples good, healthy, and happy men. . . . Through 
the mastery which the yogi attains over his thoughts and his body, he 
grows into a ' character.' By the subjection of his impulses and propen- 
sities to his will, and the fixing of the latter upon the ideal of goodness, 
he becomes a ' personality ' hard to influence by others, and thus almost 
the opposite of what we usually imagine a 'medium' so-called, or 'psy- 
chic subject ' to be." Karl Kellner : Yoga : Eine Skizze, Munchen, 1896, 
p. 21. 


finally." This would seem to be, not yet Nirvana, but 
as close an approach to it as this life affords. 1 

In the Mohammedan world the Sufi sect and various 
dervish bodies are the possessors of the mystical tradi- 
tion. The Sufis have existed in Persia from the earliest 
times, and as their pantheism is so at variance with the 
hot and rigid monotheism of the Arab mind, it has been 
suggested that Sufism must have been inoculated into 
Islam by Hindu influences. We Christians know little 
of Sufism, for its secrets are disclosed only to those initi- 
ated. To give its existence a certain liveliness in your 
minds, I will quote a Moslem document, and pass away 
from the subject. 

Al-Ghazzali, a Persian philosopher and theologian, who 
flourished in the eleventh century, and ranks as one of 
the greatest doctors of the Moslem church, has left us one 
of the few autobiographies to be found outside of Chris- 
tian literature. Strange that a species of book so abun- 
dant among ourselves should be so little represented else- 
where the absence of strictly personal confessions is 
the chief difficulty to the purely literary student who 
would like to become acquainted with the inwardness of 
religions other than the Christian. 

M. Schmolders has translated a part of Al-Ghazzali's 
autobiography into French : 2 

" The Science of the Sufis," says the Moslem author, " aims 
at detaching the heart from all that is not God, and at giving 
to it for sole occupation the meditation of the divine being. 
Theory being more easy for me than practice, I read [certain 
hooks] until I understood all that can be learned by study and 

1 I follow the account in C. F. Koeppen : Die Religion des Buddha, 
Berlin, 1857, i. 585 ff. 

2 For a full account of him, see D. B. Macdonald : The Life of Al- 
Ghazzali, in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1899, vol. xx. 
p. 71. 


hearsay. Then I recognized that what pertains most exclu- 
sively to their method is just what no study can grasp, but only 
transport, ecstasy, and the transformation of the soul. How 
great, for example, is the difference between knowing the defini- 
tions of health, of satiety, with their causes and conditions, and 
being really healthy or filled. How different to know in what 
drunkenness consists, as being a state occasioned by a vapor 
that rises from the stomach, and being drunk effectively. 
Without doubt, the drunken man knows neither the definition 
of drunkenness nor what makes it interestine- for science. 
Being drunk, he knows nothing ; whilst the physician, although 
not drunk, knows well in what drunkenness consists, and what 
are its predisposing conditions. Similarly there is a difference 
between knowing the nature of abstinence, and being abstinent 
or having one's soul detached from the world. Thus I had 
learned what words could teach of Sufism, but what was left 
could be learned neither by study nor through the ears, but 
solely by giving one's self up to ecstasy and leading a pious 

" Reflecting on my situation, I found myself tied down by a 
multitude of bonds temptations on every side. Considering 
my teaching, I found it was impure before God. I saw myself 
struggling with all my might to achieve glory and to spread my 
name. [Here follows an account of his six months' hesitation 
to break away from the conditions of his life at Bagdad, at the 
end of which he fell ill with a paralysis of the tongue.] Then, 
feeling my own weakness, and having entirely given up my own 
will, I repaired to God like a man in distress who has no more 
resources. He answered, as he answers the wretch who invokes 
him. My heart no longer felt any difficulty in renouncing 
glory, wealth, and my children. So I quitted Bagdad, and re- 
serving from my fortune only what was indispensable for my 
subsistence, I distributed the rest. I went to Syria, where I 
remained about two years, with no other occupation than living 
in retreat and solitude, conquering my desires, combating my 
passions, training myself to purify my soul, to make my char- 
acter perfect, to prepare my heart for meditating on God all 
according to the methods of the Sufis, as I had read of them. 


" This retreat only increased my desire to live in solitude, and 
to complete the purification of my heart and fit it for medita- 
tion. But the vicissitudes of the times, the affairs of the family, 
the need of subsistence, changed in some respects my primitive 
resolve, and interfered with my plans for a purely solitary life. 
I had never yet found myself completely in ecstasy, save in a 
few single hours ; nevertheless, I kept the hope of attaining 
this state. Every time that the accidents led me astray, I 
sought to return ; and in this situation I spent ten years. Dur- 
ing this solitary state things were revealed to me which it is 
impossible either to describe or to point out. I recognized for 
certain that the Sufis are assuredly walking in the path of God. 
Both in their acts and in their inaction, whether internal or 
external, they are illumined by the light which proceeds from 
the prophetic source. The first condition for a Sufi is to purge 
his heart entirely of all that is not God. The next key of the 
contemplative life consists in the humble prayers which escape 
from the fervent soul, and in the meditations on God in which 
the heart is swallowed up entirely. But in reality this is only 
the beginning of the Sufi life, the end of Sufism being total 
absorption in God. The intuitions and all that precede are, so 
to speak, only the threshold for those who enter. From the 
beginning, revelations take place in so flagrant a shape that 
the Sufis see before them, whilst wide awake, the angels and 
the souls of the prophets. They hear their voices and obtain 
their favors. Then the transport rises from the perception of 
forms and figures to a degree which escapes all expression, and 
which no man may seek to give an account of without his words 
involving sin. 

"Whoever has had no experience of the transport knows of 
the true nature of prophetism nothing but the name. He may 
meanwhile be sure of its existence, both by experience and by 
what he hears the Sufis say. As there are men endowed only 
with the sensitive faculty who reject what is offered them in the 
way of objects of the pure understanding, so there are intellec- 
tual men who reject and avoid the things perceived by the pro- 
phetic faculty, A blind man can understand nothing of colors 
save what he has learned by narration and hearsay. Yet God 


has brought prophetism near to men in giving them all a state 
analogous to it in its principal characters. This state is sleep. 
If you were to tell a man who was himself without experience 
of such a phenomenon that there are people who at times swoon 
away so as to resemble dead men, and who [in dreams] yet 
perceive things that are hidden, he would deny it [and give his 
reasons]. Nevertheless, his arguments would be refuted by 
actual experience. Wherefore, just as the understanding is a 
stage of human life in which an eye opens to discern various 
intellectual objects uncomprehended by sensation ; just so in 
the prophetic the sight is illumined by a light which uncovers 
hidden things and objects which the intellect fails to reach. 
The chief properties of prophetism are perceptible only dur- 
ing the transport, by those who embrace the Sufi life. The 
prophet is endowed with qualities to which you possess nothing 
analogous, and which consequently you cannot possibly under- 
stand. How should you know their true nature, since one 
knows only what one can comprehend? But the transport 
which one attains by the method of the Sufis is like an imme- 
diate perception, as if one touched the objects with one's 
hand." 1 

This incommunicableness of the transport is the key- 
note of all mysticism. Mystical truth exists for the indi- 
vidual who has the transport, but for no one else. In 
this, as I have said, it resembles the knowledge given to 
us in sensations more than that given by conceptual 
thought. Thought, with its remoteness and abstractness, 
has often enough in the history of philosophy been con- 
trasted unfavorably with sensation. It is a commonplace 
of metaphysics that God's knowledge cannot be discur- 
sive but must be intuitive, that is, must be constructed 
more after the pattern of what in ourselves is called 
immediate feeling, than after that of proposition and 
judgment. But our immediate feelings have no content 

1 A. Schmolders : Essai sur les dcoles philosophiques chez les Arabes, 
Paris, 1842, pp. 54-68, abridged. 


but what the five senses supply ; and we have seen and 
shall see again that mystics may emphatically deny that 
the senses play any part in the very highest type of 
knowledge which their transports yield. 

In the Christian church there have always been mys- 
tics. Although many of them have been viewed with 
suspicion, some have gained favor in the eyes of the 
authorities. The experiences of these have been treated 
as precedents, and a codified system of mystical theology 
has been based upon them, in which everything legiti- 
mate finds its place. 1 The basis of the system is ' ori- 
son ' or meditation, the methodical elevation of the soul 
towards God. Through the practice of orison the higher 
levels of mystical experience may be attained. It is odd 
that Protestantism, especially evangelical Protestantism, 
should seemingly have abandoned everything methodical 
in this line. Apart from what prayer may lead to, Pro- 
testant mystical experience appears to have been almost 
exclusively sporadic. It has been left to our mind-curers 
to reintroduce methodical meditation into our religious 

The first thing to be aimed at in orison is the mind's 
detachment from outer sensations, for these interfere with 
its concentration upon ideal things. Such manuals as 
Saint Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises recommend the dis- 
ciple to expel sensation by a graduated series of efforts 
to imagine holy scenes. The acme of this kind of disci- 
pline would be a semi-hallucinatory mono-ideism an 
imaginary figure of Christ, for example, coming fully to 

1 Gorres's Christliche Mystik gives a full account of the facts. So does 
Ribet's Mystique Divine, 2 vols., Paris, 1890. A still more methodical 
modern work is the Mystica Theologia of Vallgornera, 2 vols., Turin, 


occupy the mind. Sensorial images of this sort, whether 
literal or symbolic, play an enormous part in mysticism. 1 
But in certain cases imagery may fall away entirely, and 
in the very highest raptures it tends to do so. The state 
of consciousness becomes then insusceptible of any verbal 
description. Mystical teachers are unanimous as to this. 
Saint John of the Cross, for instance, one of the best of 
them, thus describes the condition called the ' union of 
love,' which, he says, is reached by l dark contemplation.' 
In this the Deity compenetrates the soul, but in such a 
hidden way that the soul 

" finds no terms, no means, no comparison whereby to render 
the sublimity of the wisdom and the delicacy of the spiritual 
feeling with which she is filled. . . . We receive this mystical 
knowledge of God clothed in none of the kinds of images, in 
none of the sensible representations, which our mind makes use 
of in other circumstances. Accordingly in this knowledge, 
since the senses and the imagination are not employed, we get 
neither form nor impression, nor can we give any account or 
furnish any likeness, although the mysterious and sweet-tasting 
wisdom comes home so clearly to the inmost parts of our soul. 
Fancy a man seeing a certain kind of thing for the first time in 
his life. He can understand it, use and enjoy it, but he cannot 
apply a name to it, nor communicate any idea of it, even though 
all the while it be a mere thing of sense. How much greater 
will be his powerlessness when it goes beyond the senses ! This 
is the peculiarity of the divine language. The more infused, 
intimate, spiritual, and supersensible it is, the more does it 
exceed the senses, both inner and outer, and impose silence 
upon them. . . . The soul then feels as if placed in a vast and 
profound solitude, to which no created thing has access, in an 
immense and boundless desert, desert the more delicious the 

1 M. Rec&jac, in a recent volume, makes them essential. Mysticism he 
defines as " the tendency to draw near to the Absolute morally, and by the aid 
of Symbols ." See his Fondements de la Connaissance mystique, Paris, 1897, 
p. 66. But there are unquestionably mystical conditions in which sensible 
symbols play no part. 


more solitary it is. There, in this abyss of wisdom, the soul 
grows by what it drinks in from the well-springs of the com- 
prehension of love, . . . and recognizes, however sublime and 
learned may be the terms we employ, how utterly vile, insignifi- 
cant, and improper they are, when we seek to discourse of divine 
things by their means." * 

I cannot pretend to detail to you the sundry stages of 
the Christian mystical life. 2 Our time would not suffice, 
for one thing ; and moreover, I confess that the subdi- 
visions and names which we find in the Catholic books 
seem to me to represent nothing objectively distinct. So 
many men, so many minds : I imagine that these experi- 
ences can be as infinitely varied as are the idiosyncrasies 
of individuals. 

The cognitive aspects of them, their value in the way 
of revelation, is what we are directly concerned with, and 
it is easy to show by citation how strong an impression 
they leave of being revelations of new depths of truth. 
Saint Teresa is the expert of experts in describing such 
conditions, so I will turn immediately to what she says 
of one of the highest of them, the ' orison of union.' 

" In the orison of union," says Saint Teresa, " the soul is 
fully awake as regards God, but wholly asleep as regards things 
of this world and in respect of herself. During the short time 
the union lasts, she is as it were deprived of every feeling, and 
even if she would, she could not think of any single thing. 

1 Saint John of the Cross : The Dark Night of the Soul, book ii. ch. 
xvii., in Vie et CEuvres, 3me edition, Paris, 1893, iii. 428-432. Chapter 
xi. of book ii. of Saint John's Ascent of Carmel is devoted to showing the 
harnifulness for the mystical life of the use of sensible imagery. 

2 In particular I omit mention of visual and auditory hallucinations, ver- 
bal and graphic automatisms, and such marvels as ' levitation,' somatiza- 
tion, and the healing of disease. These phenomena, which mystics have 
often presented (or are believed to have presented), have no essential mys- 
tical significance, for they occur with no consciousness of illumination what- 
ever, when they occur, as they often do, in persons of non-mystical mind. 
Consciousness of illumination is for us the essential mark of ' mystical ' states. 


Thus she needs to employ no artifice in order to arrest the use 
of her understanding : it remains so stricken with inactivity that 
she neither knows what she loves, nor in what manner she loves, 
nor what she wills. In short, she is utterly dead to the things 
of the world and lives solely in God. ... I do not even know 
whether in this state she has enough life left to breathe. It 
seems to me she has not ; or at least that if she does breathe, 
she is unaware of it. Her intellect would fain understand 
something of what is going on within her, but it has so little 
force now that it can act in no way whatsoever. So a person 
who falls into a deep faint appears as if dead. . . . 

" Thus does God, when he raises a soul to union with him- 
self, suspend the natural action of all her faculties. She 
neither sees, hears, nor understands, so long as she is united 
with God. But this time is always short, and it seems even 
shorter than it is. God establishes himself in the interior of 
this soul in such a way, that when she returns to herself, it is 
wholly impossible for her to doubt that she has been in God, 
and God in her. This truth remains so strongly impressed on 
her that, even though many years should pass without the con- 
dition returning, she can neither forget the favor she received, 
nor doubt of its reality. If you, nevertheless, ask how it is 
possible that the soul can see and understand that she has been 
in God, since during the union she has neither sight nor under- 
standing, I reply that she does not see it then, but that she 
sees it clearly later, after she has returned to herself, not by 
any vision, but by a certitude which abides with her and which 
God alone can give her. I knew a person who was ignorant 
of the truth that God's mode of being in everything must be 
either by presence, by power, or by essence, but who, after hav- 
ing received the grace of which I am speaking, believed this 
truth in the most unshakable manner. So much so that, having 
consulted a half-learned man who was as ignorant on this point 
as she had been before she was enlightened, when he replied 
that God is in us only by ' grace,' she disbelieved his reply, so 
sure she was of the true answer ; and when she came to ask 
wiser doctors, they confirmed her in her belief, which much 
consoled her. . . . 


" But how, you will repeat, can one have such certainty in 
respect to what one does not see ? This question, I am power- 
less to answer. These are secrets of God's omnipotence which 
it does not appertain to me to penetrate. All that I know is 
that I tell the truth ; and I shall never believe that any soul 
who does not possess this certainty has ever been really united 
to God." l 

The kinds of truth communicable in mystical ways, 
whether these be sensible or supersensible, are various. 
Some of them relate to this world, visions of the 
future, the reading of hearts, the sudden understanding 
of texts, the knowledge of distant events, for example ; 
but the most important revelations are theological or 

" Saint Ignatius confessed one day to Father Laynez that a 
single hour of meditation at Manresa had taught him more 
truths about heavenly things than all the teachings of all the 
doctors put together could have taught him. . . . One day in 
orison, on the steps of the choir of the Dominican church, he 
saw in a distinct manner the plan of divine wisdom in the crea- 
tion of the world. On another occasion, during a procession, 
his spirit was ravished in God, and it was given him to con- 
template, in a form and images fitted to the weak understand- 
ing of a dweller on the earth, the deep mystery of the holy 
Trinity. This last vision flooded his heart with such sweet- 
ness, that the mere memory of it in after times made him shed 
abundant tears." 2 

1 The Interior Castle, Fifth Abode, ch. i., in (Euvres, translated by 
Bouix, iii. 421-424. 

2 Bartoli-Michel : Vie de Saint Ignace de Loyola, i. 3436. Others 
have had illuminations about the created world, Jacob Boehme, for instance. 
At the age of twenty-five he was " surrounded by the divine light, and replen- 
ished with the heavenly knowledge ; insomuch as going abroad into the 
fields to a green, at Gorlitz, he there sat down, and viewing the herbs and 
grass of the field, in his inward light he saw into their essences, use, and 
properties, which was discovered to him by their lineaments, figures, and 
signatures." Of a later period of experience he writes : " In one quarter 
of an hour I saw and knew more than if I had been many years together at 


Similarly with Saint Teresa. " One day, being in orison," 
she writes, " it was granted me to perceive in one instant how 
all things are seen and contained in God. I did not perceive 
them in their proper form, and nevertheless the view I had of 
them was of a sovereign clearness, and has remained vividly im- 
pressed upon my soul. It is one of the most signal of all the 
graces which the Lord has granted me. . . . The view was so 
subtile and delicate that the understanding cannot grasp it." * 

She goes on to tell how it was as if the Deity were an 
enormous and sovereignly limpid diamond, in which all 
our actions were contained in such a way that their full 
sinfulness appeared evident as never before. On another 
day, she relates, while she was reciting the Athanasian 

" Our Lord made me comprehend in what way it is that one 
God can be in three Persons. He made me see it so clearly 

an university. For I saw and knew the being of all things, the Byss and 
the Abyss, and the eternal generation of the holy Trinity, the descent and 
original of the world and of all creatures through the divine wisdom. I 
knew and saw in myself all the three worlds, the external and visible world 
being of a procreation or extern birth from both the internal and spiritual 
worlds ; and I saw and knew the whole working essence, in the evil and 
in the good, and the mutual original and existence ; and likewise how the 
fruitful bearing womb of eternity brought forth. So that I did not only 
greatly wonder at it, but did also exceedingly rejoice, albeit I could very 
hardly apprehend the same in my external man and set it down with the 
pen. For I had a thorough view of the universe as in a chaos, wherein all 
things are couched and wrapt up, but it was impossible for me to expli- 
cate the same." Jacob Behmen's Theosophic Philosophy, etc., by Edward 
Taylor, London, 1691, pp. 425, 427, abridged. So George Fox : " I was 
come up to the state of Adam in which he was before he fell. The crea- 
tion was opened to me ; and it was showed me, how all things had their 
names given to them, according to their nature and virtue. I was at a 
stand in my mind, whether I should practice physic for the good of mankind, 
seeing the nature and virtues of the creatures were so opened to me by the 
Lord." Journal, Philadelphia, no date, p. 69. Contemporary ' Clairvoy- 
ance ' abounds in similar revelations. Andrew Jackson Davis's cosmogonies, 
for example, or certain experiences related in the delectable Reminiscences 
and Memories of Henry Thomas Butterworth,' Lebanon, Ohio, 1886. 
i Vie, pp. 581, 582. 


that I remained as extremely surprised as I was comforted, . . . 
and now, when I think of the holy Trinity, or hear It spoken 
of, I understand how the three adorable Persons form only one 
God and I experience an unspeakable happiness." 

On still another occasion, it was given to Saint Teresa 
to see and understand in what wise the Mother of God 
had been assumed into her place in Heaven. 1 

The deliciousness of some of these states seems to be 
beyond anything known in ordinary consciousness. It 
evidently involves organic sensibilities, for it is spoken of 
as something too extreme to be borne, and as verging on 
bodily pain. 2 But it is too subtle and piercing a delight 
for ordinary words to denote. God's touches, the wounds 
of his spear, references to ebriety and to nuptial union 
have to figure in the phraseology by which it is shadowed 
forth. Intellect and senses both swoon away in these 
highest states of ecstasy. " If our understanding com- 
prehends," says Saint Teresa, " it is in a mode which 
remains unknown to it, and it can understand nothing of 
what it comprehends. For my own part, I do not believe 
that it does comprehend, because, as I said, it does not 
understand itself to do so. I confess that it is all a mys- 
tery in which I am lost." 3 In the condition called raptus 
or ravishment by theologians, breathing and circulation 
are so depressed that it is a question among the doctors 
whether the soul be or be not temporarily dissevered 
from the body. One must read Saint Teresa's descrip- 
tions and the very exact distinctions which she makes, to 

1 Loc. cit., p. 574. 

2 Saint Teresa discriminates between pain in which the body has a part 
and pure spiritual pain (Interior Castle, 6th Abode, ch. xi.). As for the 
bodily part in these celestial joys, she speaks of it as " penetrating to the 
marrow of the bones, whilst earthly pleasures affect only the surface of 
the senses. I think," she adds, "that this is a just description, and I can- 
not make it better." Ibid., 5th Abode, ch. i. 

3 Vie, p. 198. 


persuade one's self that one is dealing 1 , not with imagi- 
nary experiences, but with phenomena which, however 
rare, follow perfectly definite psychological types. 

To the medical mind these ecstasies signify nothing 
but suggested and imitated hypnoid states, on an intel- 
lectual basis of superstition, and a corporeal one of de- 
generation and hysteria. Undoubtedly these pathological 
conditions have existed in many and possibly in all the 
cases, but that fact tells us nothing about the value for 
knowledge of the consciousness which they induce. To 
pass a spiritual judgment upon these states, we must 
not content ourselves with superficial medical talk, but 
inquire into their fruits for life. 

Their fruits appear to have been various. Stupefaction, 
for one thing, seems not to have been altogether absent 
as a result. You may remember the helplessness in the 
kitchen and schoolroom of poor Margaret Mary Alacoque. 
Many other ecstatics would have perished but for the 
care taken of them by admiring followers. The ' other- 
worldliness ' encouraged by the mystical consciousness 
makes this over-abstraction from practical life peculiarly 
liable to befall mystics in whom the character is naturally 
passive and the intellect feeble; but in natively strong 
minds and characters we find quite opposite results. The 
great Spanish mystics, who carried the habit of ecstasy 
as far as it has often been carried, appear for the most 
part to have shown indomitable spirit and energy, and 
all the more so for the trances in which they indulged. 

Saint Ignatius was a mystic, but his mysticism made 
him assuredly one of the most powerfully practical hu- 
man engines that ever lived. Saint John of the Cross, 
writing of the intuitions and ' touches ' by which God 
reaches the substance of the soul, tells us that 


" They enrich it marvelously. A single one of them may be 
sufficient to abolish at a stroke certain imperfections of which 
the soul during its whole life had vainly tried to rid itself, and 
to leave it adorned with virtues and loaded with supernatural 
gifts. A single one of these intoxicating consolations may re- 
ward it for all the labors undergone in its life even were they 
numberless. Invested with an invincible courage, filled with an 
impassioned desire to suffer for its God, the soul then is seized 
with a strange torment that of not being allowed to suffer 
enough." 1 

Saint Teresa is as emphatic, and much more detailed. 
You may perhaps remember a passage I quoted from her 
in my first lecture. 2 There are many similar pages in 
her autobiography. Where in literature is a more evi- 
dently veracious account of the formation of a new centre 
of spiritual energy, than is given in her description of 
the effects of certain ecstasies which in departing leave 
the soul upon a higher level of emotional excitement ? 

" Often, infirm and wrought upon with dreadful pains before 
the ecstasy, the soul emerges from it full of health and admir- 
ably disposed for action ... as if God had willed that the body 
itself, already obedient to the soul's desires, should share in the 
soul's happiness. . . . The soul after such a favor is animated 
with a degree of courage so great that if at that moment its 
body should be torn to pieces for the cause of God, it would 
feel nothing but the liveliest comfort. Then it is that promises 
and heroic resolutions spring up in profusion in us, soaring 
desires, horror of the world, and the clear perception of our 
proper nothingness. . . . What empire is comparable to that 
of a soul who, from this sublime summit to which God has 
raised her, sees all the things of earth beneath her feet, and is 
captivated by no one of them ? How ashamed she is of her 
former attachments ! How amazed at her blindness ! What 
lively pity she feels for those whom she recognizes still shrouded 
in the darkness ! . . . She groans at having ever been sensi- 

1 (Euvres, ii. 320. 2 Above, p. 21. 


tive to points of honor, at the illusion that made her ever see 
as honor what the world calls by that name. Now she sees in 
this name nothing more than an immense lie of which the world 
remains a victim. She discovers, in the new light from above, 
that in genuine honor there is nothing spurious, that to be 
faithful to this honor is to give our respect to what deserves to 
be respected really, and to consider as nothing, or as less than 
nothing, whatsoever perishes and is not agreeable to God. . . . 
She laughs when she sees grave persons, persons of orison, 
caring for points of honor for which she now feels profoundest 
contempt. It is suitable to the dignity of their rank to act 
thus, they pretend, and it makes them more useful to others. 
But she knows that in despising the dignity of their rank for 
the pure love of God they would do more good in a single day 
than they would effect in ten years by preserving it. . . . She 
laughs at herself that there should ever have been a time in her 
life when she made any case of money, when she ever desired 
it. . . . Oh ! if human beings might only agree together to 
regard it as so much useless mud, what harmony would then 
reign in the world ! With what friendship we would all treat 
each other if our interest in honor and in money could but dis- 
appear from earth ! For my own part, I feel as if it would be a 
remedy for all our ills." 1 

Mystical conditions may, therefore, render the soul 
more energetic in the lines which their inspiration favors. 
But this could be reckoned an advantage only in case 
the inspiration were a true one. If the inspiration were 
erroneous, the energy would be all the more mistaken 
and misbegotten. So we stand once more before that 
problem of truth which confronted us at the end of the 
lectures on saintliness. You will remember that we 
turned to mysticism precisely to get some light on truth. 
Do mystical states establish the truth of those theologi- 
cal affections in which the saintly life has its root ? 

In spite of their repudiation of articulate self-descrip- 
1 Vie, pp. 229, 200, 231-233, 243. 


tion, mystical states in general assert a pretty distinct 
theoretic drift. It is possible to give the outcome of the 
majority of them in terms that point in definite philosophi- 
cal directions. One of these directions is optimism, and 
the other is monism. We pass into mystical states from 
out of ordinary consciousness as from a less into a more, 
as from a smallness into a vastness, and at the same time 
as from an unrest to a rest. We feel them as reconciling, 
unifying states. They appeal to the yes-function more 
than to the no-function in us. In them the unlimited 
absorbs the limits and peacefully closes the account. 
Their very denial of every adjective you may propose 
as applicable to the ultimate truth, He, the Self, the 
Atman, is to be described by ' No ! no ! ' only, say the 
Upanishads, 1 though it seems on the surface to be a 
no-function, is a denial made on behalf of a deeper yes. 
Whoso calls the Absolute anything in particular, or says 
that it is this, seems implicitly to shut it off from being 
that it is as if he lessened it. So we deny the ' this/ 
negating the negation which it seems to us to imply, in 
the interests of the higher affirmative attitude by which 
we are possessed. The fountain-head of Christian mys- 
ticism is Dionysius the Areopagite. He describes the 
absolute truth by negatives exclusively. 

" The cause of all things is neither soul nor intellect ; nor 
has it imagination, opinion, or reason, or intelligence ; nor is it 
reason or intelligence ; nor is it spoken or thought. It is 
neither number, nor order, nor magnitude, nor littleness, nor 
equality, nor inequality, nor similarity, nor dissimilarity. It 
neither stands, nor moves, nor rests. ... It is neither es- 
sence, nor eternity, nor time. Even intellectual contact does 
not belong to it. It is neither science nor truth. It is not 
even royalty or wisdom ; not one ; not unity ; not divinity 

1 Muller's translation, part ii. p. 180. 


or goodness ; nor even spirit as we know it," etc., ad libi- 
tum. 1 

But these qualifications are denied by Dionysius, not 
because the truth falls short of them, but because it so 
infinitely excels them. It is above them. It is super- 
lucent, S2^er-splendent, sw^er-essential, s?^er-sublime, 
super everything that can be named. Like Hegel in his 
logic, mystics journey towards the positive pole of truth 
only by the ' Methode der Absoluten Negativitat.' 2 

Thus come the paradoxical expressions that so abound 
in mystical writings. As when Eckhart tells of the still 
desert of the Godhead, " where never was seen difference, 
neither Father, Son, nor Holy Ghost, where there is no 
one at home, yet where the spark of the soul is more at 
peace than in itself." 3 As when Boehme writes of the 
Primal Love, that " it may fitly be compared to Nothing, 
for it is deeper than any Thing, and is as nothing with 
respect to all things, forasmuch as it is not comprehen- 
sible by any of them. And because it is nothing respec- 
tively, it is therefore free from all things, and is that 
only good, which a man cannot express or utter what it 
is, there being nothing to which it may be compared, to 
express it by." 4 Or as when Angelus Silesius sings : 

" Gott ist ein lauter Nichts, ihn riihrt kein Nun noch Hier ; 
Je mehr du nach ihm greiffst, je inehr entwind er dir." 5 

To this dialectical use, by the intellect, of negation as 

1 T. Davidson's translation, in Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 1893, 
vol. xxii. p. 399. 

2 " Deus propter excellentiam non immerito Nihil vocatur." Scotus Eri- 
gena, quoted by Andrew Seth : Two Lectures on Theism, New York, 
1897, p. 55. 

3 J. Royce : Studies in Good and Evil, p. 282. 

4 Jacob Behmen's Dialogues on the Supersensual Life, translated by 
Bernard Holland, London, 1901, p. 48. 

5 Cherubinischer Wandersmanu, Strophe 25. 


a mode of passage towards a higher kind of affirmation, 
there is correlated the subtlest of moral counterparts in 
the sphere of the personal mil. Since denial of the finite 
self and its wants, since asceticism of some sort, is found 
in religious experience to be the only doorway to the 
larger and more blessed life, this moral mystery inter- 
twines and combines with the intellectual mystery in all 
mystical writings. 

" Love," continues Behmen, is Nothing 1 , for " when thou art 
gone forth wholly from the Creature and from that which is 
visible, and art become Nothing to all that is Nature and 
Creature, then thou art in that eternal One, which is God him- 
self, and then thou shalt feel within thee the highest virtue of 
Love. . . . The treasure of treasures for the soul is where she 
goeth out of the Somewhat into that Nothing out of which all 
things may be made. The soul here saith, I have nothing, for 
I am utterly stripped and naked ; / can do nothing, for I have 
no manner of power, but am as water poured out ; I am nothing, 
for all that I am is no more than an image of Being, and only 
God is to me I AM ; and so, sitting down in my own Nothing- 
ness, I give glory to the eternal Being, and will nothing of my- 
self, that so God may will all in me, being unto me my God 
and all things." : 

In Paul's language, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth 
in me. Only when I become as nothing can God enter 
in and no difference between his life and mine remain 
outstanding. 2 

1 Op. cit., pp. 42, 74, abridged. 

2 From a French book I take this mystical expression of happiness in 
God's indwelling presence : 

" Jesus has come to take up his abode in my heart. It is not so much a 
habitation, an association, as a sort of fusion. Ob, new and blessed life ! 
life which becomes each day more luminous. . . . The wall before me, 
dark a few moments since, is splendid at this hour because the sun shines 
on it. Wherever its rays fall they light up a conflagration of glory ; the 
smallest speck of glass sparkles, each grain of sand emits fire ; even so 
there is a royal song of triumph in my heart because the Lord is there. My 


This overcoming of all the usual barriers between the 
individual and the Absolute is the great mystic achieve- 
ment. In mystic states we both become one with the 
Absolute and we become aware of our oneness. This is 
the everlasting and triumphant mystical tradition, hardly 
altered by differences of clime or creed. In Hinduism, 
in Neoplatonism, in Sufism, in Christian mysticism, in 
Whitmanism, we find the same recurring note, so that 
there is about mystical utterances an eternal unanimity 
which ought to make a critic stop and think, and which 
brings it about that the mystical classics have, as has 
been said, neither birthday nor native land. Perpetually 
telling of the unity of man with God, their speech ante- 
dates languages, and they do not grow old. 1 

' That art Thou ! ' say the Upanishads, and the Ve- 
dantists add : * Not a part, not a mode of That, but iden- 
tically That, that absolute Spirit of the World.' "As 
pure water poured into pure water remains the same, 
thus, Gautama, is the Self of a thinker who knows. 

days succeed each other ; yesterday a blue sky ; to-day a clouded sun ; a 
night filled with strange dreams ; but as soon as the eyes open, and I regain 
consciousness and seem to begin life again, it is always the same figure 
before me, always the same presence filling my heart. . . . Formerly the 
day was dulled by the absence of the Lord. I used to wake invaded by all 
sorts of sad impressions, and I did not find him on my path. To-day he is 
with me ; and the light cloudiness which covers things is not an obstacle to 
my communion with him. I feel the pressure of his hand, I feel something 
else which fills me with a serene joy ; shall I dare to speak it out ? Yes, 
for it is the true expression of what I experience. The Holy Spirit is not 
merely making me a visit ; it is no mere dazzling apparition which may 
from one moment to another spread its wings and leave me in my night, it 
is a permanent habitation. He can depart only if he takes me with him. 
More than that ; he is not other than myself : he is one with me. It is not 
a juxtaposition, it is a penetration, a profound modification of my nature, 
a new manner of my being." Quoted from the MS. ' of an old man ' by 
Wilfred Monod : II Vit : six meditations sur le mystere chretieu, pp. 280- 

1 Compare M. Maeterlinck : L'Ornement des Noces spirituelles de 
Ruysbroeck, Bruxelles, 1891, Introduction, p. xix. 


Water in water, fire in fire, ether in ether, no one can 
distinguish them ; likewise a man whose mind has entered 
into the Self." x " ' Every man/ says the Sufi Gulshan- 
Raz, ' whose heart is no longer shaken by any doubt, 
knows with certainty that there is no being save only 
One. ... In his divine majesty the me, the ice, the 
thou, are not found, for in the One there can be no dis- 
tinction. Every being who is annulled and entirely sep- 
arated from himself, hears resound outside of him this 
voice and this echo : / am God : he has an eternal way 
of existing, and is no longer subject to death." 2 In 
the vision of God, says Plotinus, " what sees is not our 
reason, but something prior and superior to our reason. 
. . . He who thus sees does not properly see, does not 
distinguish or imagine two things. He changes, he 
ceases to be himself, preserves nothing of himself. Ab- 
sorbed in God, he makes but one with him, like a centre 
of a circle coinciding with another centre." 3 " Here," 
writes Suso, " the spirit dies, and yet is all alive in the 
marvels of the Godhead . . . and is lost in the stillness 
of the glorious dazzling obscurity and of the naked sim- 
ple unity. It is in this modeless lohere that the highest 
bliss is to be found." 4 " Ich bin so gross als Gott," 
sings Angelus Silesius again, " Er ist als ich so klein ; 
Er kann nicht iiber mich, ich unter ihm nicht sein." 5 

In mystical literature such self-contradictory phrases as 
' dazzling obscurity,' ' whispering silence,' teeming desert,' 
are continually met with. They prove that not conceptual 
speech, but music rather, is the element through which we 

i Upanishads, M. Miller's translation, ii. 17, 334. 

2 Schmolders : Op. cit., p. 210. 

3 Enneads, Bouillier's translation, Paris, 1861, iii. 561. Compare pp. 
473-477, and vol. i. p. 27. 

4 Autobiography, pp. 309, 310. 

5 Op. cit., Strophe 10. 


are best spoken to by mystical truth. Many mystical 
scriptures are indeed little more than musical compositions. 

" He who would hear the voice of Nada, ' the Soundless 
Sound,' and comprehend it, he has to learn the nature of Dhii- 
rana. . . . When to himself his form appears unreal, as do on 
waking all the forms he sees in dreams ; when be has ceased 
to hear the many, he may discern the ONE the inner sound 
which kills the outer. . . . For then the soul will hear, and 
will remember. And then to the inner ear will speak the 
voice OF THE silence. . . . And now thy Self is lost in self, 
thyself unto thyself, merged in that self from which thou 
first didst radiate. . . . Behold ! thou hast become the Light, 
thou hast become the Sound, thou art thy Master and thy 
God. Thou art thyself the object of thy search : the voice 
unbroken, that resounds throughout eternities, exempt from 
change, from sin exempt, the seven sounds in one, the VOICE 

OF THE SILENCE. Om tdt Sat" 1 

These words, if they do not awaken laughter as you 
receive them, probably stir chords within you which 
music and language touch in common. Music gives us 
ontolocrical messages which non-musical criticism is un- 
able to contradict, though it may laugh at our foolishness 
in minding; them. There is a verg;e of the mind which 
these things haunt ; and whispers therefrom mingle with 
the operations of our understanding, even as the w r aters 
of the infinite ocean send their waves to break among the 
pebbles that lie upon our shores. 

" Here begins the sea that ends not till the world's end. Where we stand, 
Could we know the next high sea-mark set beyond these waves that gleam, 
"VVe should know what never man hath known, nor eye of man hath 

scanned. . . . 
Ah, but here man's heart leaps, yearning towards the gloom with venturous 

From the shore that hath no shore beyond it, set in all the sea." 2 

1 H. P. Blavatsky : The Voice of the Silence. 

2 Swinburne : On the Verge, in 'A Midsummer Vacation.' 


That doctrine, for example, that eternity is timeless, 
that our i immortality,' if we live in the eternal, is not so 
much future as already now and here, which we find so 
often expressed to-day in certain philosophic circles, finds 
its support in a ' hear, hear ! ' or an ' amen,' which floats 
up from that mysteriously deeper level. 1 We recognize 
the passwords to the mystical region as we hear them, 
but we cannot use them ourselves ; it alone has the keep- 
ing of ' the password primeval.' 2 

I have now sketched with extreme brevity and insuffi- 
ciency, but as fairly as I am able in the time allowed, the 
general traits of the mystic range of consciousness. It 
is on the whole pantheistic and ojytimistic, or at least 
the opposite of pessimistic. It is anti-naturalistic, and 
harmonizes best with twice-bornness and so-called other- 
worldly states of mind. 

My next task is to inquire whether we can invoke it as 
authoritative. Does it furnish any warrant for the truth 
of the twice-bornness and supernaturality and pantheism 
which it favors? I must give my answer to this question 
as concisely as I can. 

In brief my answer is this, and I will divide it into 
three parts : 

(1) Mystical states, when well developed, usually are, 
and have the right to be, absolutely authoritative over 
the individuals to whom they come. 

(2) No authority emanates from them which should 
make it a duty for those who stand outside of them to 
accept their revelations uncritically. 

1 Compare the extracts from Dr. Bucke, quoted on pp. 398, 399. 

2 As serious an attempt as I know to mediate between the mystical region 
and the discursive life is contained in an article on Aristotle's Unmoved 
Mover, by F. C. S. Schiller, in Mind, vol. ix., 1900. 


(3) They break down the authority of the non-mys- 
tical or rationalistic consciousness, based upon the under- 
standing and the senses alone. They show it to be only 
one kind of consciousness. They open out the possibility 
of other orders of truth, in which, so far as anything in 
us vitally responds to them, we may freely continue to 
have faith. 

I will take up these points one by one. 


As a matter of psychological fact, mystical states of 
a well-pronounced and emphatic sort are usually au- 
thoritative over those who have them. 1 They have been 
" there,' and know. It is vain for rationalism to grumble 
about this. If the mystical truth that comes to a man 
proves to be a force that he can live by, what mandate 
have we of the majority to order him to live in another 
way ? We can throw him into a prison or a madhouse, 
but we cannot change his mind we commonly attach 
it only the more stubbornly to its beliefs. 2 It mocks 
our utmost efforts, as a matter of fact, and in point of 
logic it absolutely escapes our jurisdiction. Our own 
more ' rational ' beliefs are based on evidence exactly 
similar in nature to that which mystics quote for theirs. 
Our senses, namely, have assured us of certain states of 
fact ; but mystical experiences are as direct perceptions 

1 I abstract from weaker states, and from those cases of which the books 
are full, where the director (but usually not the subject) remains in doubt 
whether the experience may not have proceeded from the demon. 

2 Example : Mr. John Nelson writes of his imprisonment for preaching 
Methodism : " My soul was as a watered garden, and I could sing praises 
to God all day long ; for he turned my captivity into joy, and gave me to 
rest as well ou the boards, as if I had been on a bed of down. Now could 
I say, 'God's service is perfect freedom,' and I was carried out much in 
prayer that my enemies might drink of the same river of peace which my 
God gave so largely to me." Journal, London, no date, p. 172. 


of fact for those who have thein as any sensations ever 
were for us. The records show that even though the 
five senses be in abeyance in them, they are absolutely 
sensational in their epistemological quality, if I may be 
pardoned the barbarous expression, that is, they are 
face to face presentations of what seems immediately to 

The mystic is, in short, invulnerable, and must be left, 
whether we relish it or not, in undisturbed enjoyment 
of his creed. Faith, says Tolstoy, is that by which men 
live. And faith-state and mystic state are practically 
convertible terms. 

But I now proceed to add that mystics have no right 
to claim that we ought to accept the deliverance of 
their peculiar experiences, if we are ourselves outsiders 
and feel no private call thereto. The utmost they can 
ever ask of us in this life is to admit that they establish 
a presumption. They form a consensus and have an un- 
equivocal outcome ; and it would be odd, mystics might 
say, if such a unanimous type of experience should prove 
to be altogether wrong. At bottom, however, this would 
only be an appeal to numbers, like the appeal of rational- 
ism the other way ; and the appeal to numbers has no 
logical force. If we acknowledge it, it is for ' sugges- 
tive,' not for logical reasons : we follow the majority be- 
cause to do so suits our life. 

But even this presumption from the unanimity of 
mystics is far from being strong. In characterizing 
mystic states as pantheistic, optimistic, etc., I am afraid I 
over-simplified the truth. I did so for expository reasons, 
and to keep the closer to the classic mystical tradition. 
The classic religious mysticism, it now must be con- 


fessed, is only a ' privileged case.' It is an extract, 
kept true to type by the selection of the fittest speci- 
mens and their preservation in ' schools.' It is carved 
out from a much larger mass ; and if we take the larger 
mass as seriously as religious mysticism has historically 
taken itself, we find that the supposed unanimity largely 
disappears. To begin with, even religious mysticism 
itself, the kind that accumulates traditions and makes 
schools, is much less unanimous than I have allowed. It 
has been both ascetic and antinomianly self-indulgent 
within the Christian church. 1 It is dualistic in Sankhya, 
and monistic in Vedanta philosophy. I called it panthe- 
istic ; but the great Spanish mystics are anything but 
pantheists. They are with few exceptions non-metaphysi- 
cal minds, for whom l the category of personality ' is 
absolute. The ' union ' of man with God is for them 
much more like an occasional miracle than like an original 
identity. 2 How different again, apart from the happiness 
common to all, is the mysticism of Walt Whitman, Ed- 
ward Carpenter, Richard Jefferies, and other naturalistic 
pantheists, from the more distinctively Christian sort. 3 
The fact is that the mystical feeling of enlargement, 
union, and emancipation has no specific intellectual con- 
tent whatever of its own. It is capable of forming matri- 
monial alliances with material furnished by the most 
diverse philosophies and theologies, provided only they 

1 Ruysbroeck, in the work which Maeterlinck has translated, has a 
chapter against the antinomianism of disciples. H. Delacroix's hook 
(Essai sur le mysticisme spe'culatif en Allemagne au XlVme Siecle, Paris, 
1900) is full of antinomian material. Compare also A. Jundt : Les Amis 
de Dieu au XlVme Siecle, These de Strasbourg, 1879. 

2 Compare Paul Rousselot : Les Mystiques Espagnols, Paris, 1869, 
ch. xii. 

3 See Carpenter's Towards Democracy, especially the latter parts, and 
Jefferies's wonderful and splendid mystic rhapsody, The Story of my 


can find a place in their framework for its peculiar emo- 
tional mood. We have no right, therefore, to invoke its 
prestige as distinctively in favor of any special belief, such 
as that in absolute idealism, or in the absolute monistic 
identity, or in the absolute goodness, of the world. It 
is only relatively in favor of all these things it passes 
out of common human consciousness in the direction in 
which they lie. 

So much for religious mysticism proper. But more 
remains to be told, for religious mysticism is only one 
half of mysticism. The other half has no accumulated 
traditions except those which the text-books on insanity 
supply. Open any one of these, and you will find abun- 
dant cases in which ' mystical ideas ' are cited as character- 
istic symptoms of enfeebled or deluded states of mind. 
In delusional insanity, paranoia, as they sometimes call it, 
we may have a diabolical mysticism, a sort of religious 
mysticism turned upside down. The same sense of in- 
effable importance in the smallest events, the same texts 
and words coming with new meanings, the same voices 
and visions and leadings and missions, the same controlling 
by extraneous powers ; only this time the emotion is pes- 
simistic : instead of consolations we have desolations ; the 
meanings are dreadful ; and the powers are enemies to 
life. It is evident that from the point of view of their 
psychological mechanism, the classic mysticism and these 
lower mysticisms spring from the same mental level, from 
that great subliminal or transmarginal region of which 
science is beginning to admit the existence, but of which 
so little is really known. That region contains every 
kind of matter : ' seraph and snake ' abide there side by 
side. To come from thence is no infallible credential. 
What comes must be sifted and tested, and run the gaunt- 
let of confrontation with the total context of experience, 


just like what comes from the outer world of sense. Its 
value must be ascertained by empirical methods, so long- 
as we are not mystics ourselves. 

Once more, then, I repeat that non-mystics are under 
no obligation to acknowledge in mystical states a superior 
authority conferred on them by their intrinsic nature. 1 


Yet, I repeat once more, the existence of mystical 
states absolutely overthrows the pretension of non-mysti- 
cal states to be the sole and ultimate dictators of what 
we may believe. As a rule, mystical states merely add a 
supersensuous meaning to the ordinary outward data of 
consciousness. They are excitements like the emotions 
of love or ambition, gifts to our spirit by means of which 
facts already objectively before us fall into a new expres- 
siveness and make a new connection with our active life. 
They do not contradict these facts as such, or deny any- 
thing that our senses have immediately seized. 2 It is the 
rationalistic critic rather who plays the part of denier in 

1 In chapter i. of book ii. of his work Degeneration, ' Max Xordau ' 
seeks to undermine all mysticism by exposing the weakness of the lower 
kinds. Mysticism for him means any sudden perception of hidden signifi- 
cance in things. He explains such perception by the abundant uncompleted 
associations which experiences may arouse in a degenerate brain. These 
give to him who has the experience a vague and vast sense of its leading 
further, yet they awaken no definite or useful consequent in his thought. 
The explanation is a plausible one for certain sorts of feeling of signifi- 
cance ; and other alienists (Wernicke, for example, in his Grundriss der 
Psychiatrie, Theil ii., Leipzig, 1896) have explained ' paranoiac ' conditions 
by a laming of the association-organ. But the higher mystical flights, with 
their positiveness and abruptness, are surely products of no such merely 
negative condition. It seems far more reasonable to ascribe them to inroads 
from the subconscious life, of the cerebral activity correlative to which 
we as yet know nothing. 

2 They sometimes add subjective audita et visa to the facts, but as these 
are usually interpreted as transmundane, they oblige no alteration in the 
facts of sense. 


the controversy, and his denials have no strength, for 
there never can be a state of facts to which new meaning 
may not truthfully be added, provided the mind ascend to 
a more enveloping point of view. It must always remain 
an open question whether mystical states may not possi- 
bly be such superior points of view, windows through 
which the mind looks out upon a more extensive and 
inclusive world. The difference of the views seen from 
the different mystical windows need not prevent us from 
entertaining this supposition. The wider world would in 
that case prove to have a mixed constitution like that of 
this world, that is all. It would have its celestial and its 
infernal regions, its tempting and its saving moments, 
its valid experiences and its counterfeit ones, just as our 
world has them ; but it would be a wider world all the 
same. We should have to use its experiences by selecting 
and subordinating and substituting just as is our custom 
in this ordinary naturalistic world ; we should be liable to 
error just as we are now ; yet the counting in of that 
wider world of meanings, and the serious dealing with 
it, might, in spite of all the perplexity, be indispensable 
stages in our approach to the final fullness of the truth. 

In this shape, I think, we have to leave the subject. 
Mystical states indeed wield no authority due simply to 
their being mystical states. But the higher ones among 
them point in directions to which the religious senti- 
ments even of non-mystical men incline. They tell of the 
supremacy of the ideal, of vastness, of union, of safety, 
and of rest. They offer us hypotheses, hypotheses which 
we may voluntarily ignore, but which as thinkers we can- 
not possibly upset. The supernaturalism and optimism 
to which they would persuade us may, interpreted in one 
way or another, be after all the truest of insights into the 
meaning of this life. 


" Oh, the little more, and how much it is ; and the little 
less, and what worlds away ! ' It may be that possi- 
bility and permission of this sort are all that the religious 
consciousness requires to live on. In my last lecture I 
shall have to try to persuade you that this is the case. 
Meanwhile, however, I am sure that . for many of my 
readers this diet is too slender. If supernaturalism and 
inner union with the divine are true, you think, then not 
so much permission, as compulsion to believe, ought to 
be found. Philosophy has always professed to prove 
religious truth by coercive argument ; and the construc- 
tion of philosophies of this kind has always been one 
favorite function of the religious life, if we use this term 
in the large historic sense. But religious philosophy is 
an enormous subject, and in my next lecture I can only 
give that brief glance at it which my limits will allow. 


THE subject of Saintliness left us face to face with 
the question, Is the sense of divine presence a 
sense of anything objectively true? We turned first to 
mysticism for an answer, and found that although mys- 
ticism is entirely willing to corroborate religion, it is too 
private (and also too various) in its utterances to be able 
to claim a universal authority. But philosophy pub- 
lishes results which claim to be universally valid if they 
are valid at all, so we now turn with our question to 
philosophy. Can philosophy stamp a warrant of veracity 
upon the religious man's sense of the divine ? 

I imagine that many of you at this point begin to 
indulge in guesses at the goal to which I am tending. I 
have undermined the authority of mysticism, you say, 
and the next thing I shall probably do is to seek to dis- 
credit that of philosophy. Religion, you expect to hear 
me conclude, is nothing but an affair of faith, based 
either on vague sentiment, or on that vivid sense of the 
reality of things unseen of which in my second lecture 
and in the lecture on Mysticism I gave so many examples. 
It is essentially private and individualistic ; it always 
exceeds our powers of formulation ; and although at- 
tempts to pour its contents into a philosophic mould will 
probably always go on, men being what they are, yet 
these attempts are always secondary processes which in 
no way add to the authority, or warrant the veracity, of 
the sentiments from which they derive their own stimulus 


and borrow whatever glow of conviction they may them- 
selves possess. In short, you suspect that I am planning 
to defend feeling at the expense of reason, to rehabilitate 
the primitive and unreflective, and to dissuade you from 
the hope of any Theology worthy of the name. 

To a certain extent I have to admit that you guess 
rightly. I do believe that feeling is the deeper source of 
religion, and that philosophic and theological formulas 
are secondary products, like translations of a text into 
another tongue. But all such statements are misleading 
from their brevity, and it will take the whole hour for 
me to explain to you exactly what I mean. 

When I call theological formulas secondary products, 
I mean that in a world in which no religious feeling had 
ever existed, I doubt whether any philosophic theology 
could ever have been framed. I doubt if dispassionate 
intellectual contemplation of the universe, apart from 
inner unhappiness and need of deliverance on the one 
hand and mystical emotion on the other, would ever have 
resulted in religious philosophies such as we now possess. 
Men would have begun with animistic explanations of 
natural fact, and criticised these away into scientific 
ones, as they actually have done. In the science they 
would have left a certain amount of ' psychical research,' 
even as they now will probably have to re-admit a cer- 
tain amount. But high-flying speculations like those of 
either dogmatic or idealistic theology, these they would 
have had no motive to venture on, feeling no need of 
commerce with such deities. These speculations must, 
it seems to me, be classed as over-beliefs, buildings-out 
performed by the intellect into directions of which feel- 
ing originally supplied the hint. 

But even if religious philosophy had to have its first 
hint supplied by feeling, may it not have dealt in a supe- 


rior way with the matter which feeling suggested ? Feel- 
ing is private and dumb, and unable to give an account of 
itself. It allows that its results are mysteries and enig- 
mas, declines to justify them rationally, and on occasion 
is willing that they should even pass for paradoxical and 
absurd. Philosophy takes just the opposite attitude. 
Her aspiration is to reclaim from mystery and paradox 
whatever territory she touches. To find an escape from 
obscure and wayward personal persuasion to truth objec- 
tively valid for all thinking men has ever been the intel- 
lect's most cherished ideal. To redeem religion from 
unwholesome privacy, and to give public status and uni- 
versal right of way to its deliverances, has been reason's 

I believe that philosophy will always have opportunity 
to labor at this task. 1 We are thinking beings, and we 
cannot exclude the intellect from participating in any of 
our functions. Even in soliloquizing with ourselves, we 
construe our feelings intellectually. Both our personal 
ideals and our religious and mystical experiences must 
be interpreted congruously with the kind of scenery 
which our thinking mind inhabits. The philosophic 
climate of our time inevitably forces its own clothing on 
us. Moreover, we must exchange our feelings with one 
another, and in doing so we have to speak, and to use 
general and abstract verbal formulas. Conceptions and 
constructions are thus a necessary part of our religion ; 
and as moderator amid the clash of hypotheses, and 
mediator amonof the criticisms of one man's constructions 
by another, philosophy will always have much to do. It 
would be strange if I disputed this, when these very lec- 
tures which I am giving are (as you will see more clearly 

1 Compare Professor W. Wallace's Gifford Lectures, in Lectures and 
Essays, Oxford, 1898, pp. 17 ff. 


from now onwards) a laborious attempt to extract from 
the privacies of religious experience some general facts 
which can be defined in formulas upon which everybody 
may agree. 

Religious experience, in other words, spontaneously 
and inevitably engenders myths, superstitions, dogmas, 
creeds, and metaphysical theologies, and criticisms of 
one set of these by the adherents of another. Of late, 
impartial classifications and comparisons have become 
possible, alongside of the denunciations and anathemas 
by which the commerce between creeds used exclusively 
to be carried on. We have the beginnings of a i Science 
of Religions,' so-called; and if these lectures could ever 
be accounted a crumb-like contribution to such a science, 
I should be made very happy. 

But all these intellectual operations, whether they 
be constructive or comparative and critical, presuppose 
immediate experiences as their subject-matter. They 
are interpretative and inductive operations, operations 
after the fact, consequent upon religious feeling, not 
coordinate with it, not independent of what it ascertains. 

The intellectualism in religion which I wish to dis- 
credit pretends to be something altogether different from 
this. It assumes to construct religious objects out of 
the resources of logical reason alone, or of logical reason 
drawing rigorous inference from non-subjective facts. It 
calls its conclusions dogmatic theology, or philosophy of 
the absolute, as the case may be ; it does not call them 
science of religions. It reaches them in an a priori way, 
and warrants their veracity. 

Warranted systems have ever been the idols of aspiring 
souls. All-inclusive, yet simple ; noble, clean, luminous, 
stable, rigorous, true ; what more ideal refuge could 


there be than such a system would offer to spirits vexed 
by the muddiness and accidentality of the world of sensi- 
ble things ? Accordingly, we find inculcated in the the- 
ological schools of to-day, almost as much as in those 
of the fore-time, a disdain for merely possible or prob- 
able truth, and of results that only private assurance 
can grasp. Scholastics and idealists both express this 
disdain. Principal John Caird, for example, writes as 
follows in his Introduction to the Philosophy of Reli- 
gion : 

" Religion must indeed be a thing of the heart ; but in order 
to elevate it from the region of subjective caprice and way- 
wardness, and to distinguish between that which is true and 
false in religion, we must appeal to an objective standard. That 
which enters the heart must first be discerned by the intelli- 
gence to be true. It must be seen as having in its own nature 
a right to dominate feeling, and as constituting the principle 
by which feeling must be judged. 1 In estimating the religious 
character of individuals, nations, or races, the first question is, 
not how they feel, but what they think and believe not 
whether their religion is one which manifests itself in emotions, 
more or less vehement and enthusiastic, but what are the con- 
ceptions of God and divine things by which these emotions are 
called forth. Feeling is necessary in religion, but it is by the 
content or intelligent basis of a religion, and not by feeling, 
that its character and worth are to be determined." 2 

Cardinal Newman, in his work, The Idea of a University, 
gives more emphatic expression still to this disdain for 
sentiment. 3 Theology, he says, is a science in the strict- 
est sense of the word. I will tell you, he says, what it is 
not not ' physical evidences ' for God, not ( natural 
religion,' for these are but vague subjective interpreta- 
tions : 

1 Op. cit., p. 174, abridged. 

2 Ibid., p. 186, abridged and italicized. 
8 Discourse II. 7. 


" If," he continues, " the Supreme Being is powerful or skill- 
ful, just so far as the telescope shows power, or the microscope 
shows skill, if his moral law is to be ascertained simply by the 
physical processes of the animal frame, or his will gathered 
from the immediate issues of human affairs, if his Essence is 
just as high and deep and broad as the universe and no more ; 
if this be the fact, then will I confess that there is no specific 
science about God, that theology is but a name, and a protest 
in its behalf an hypocrisy. Then, pious as it is to think of 
Him, while the pageant of experiment or abstract reasoning 
passes by, still such piety is nothing more than a poetry of 
thought, or an ornament of language, a certain view taken of 
Nature which one man has and another has not, which gifted 
minds strike out, which others see to be admirable and ingen- 
ious, and which all would be the better for adopting. It is but 
the theology of Nature, just as we talk of the 'philosophy or 
the romance of history, or the poetry of childhood, or the pic- 
turesque or the sentimental or the humorous, or any other ab- 
stract quality which the genius or the caprice of the individual, 
or the fashion of the day, or the consent of the world, recog- 
nizes in any set of objects which are subjected to its contempla- 
tion. I do not see much difference between avowing that there 
is no God, and implying that nothing definite can be known 
for certain about Him." 

What I mean by Theology, continues Newman, is none of 
these things : " I simply mean the Science of God, or the truths 
we know about God, put into a system, just as we have a sci- 
ence of the stars and call it astronomy, or of the crust of the 
earth and call it geology." 

In both these extracts we have the issue clearly set 
before us : Feeling valid only for the individual is pitted 
against reason valid universally. The test is a perfectly 
plain one of fact. Theology based on pure reason must 
in point of fact convince men universally. If it did not, 
wherein would its superiority consist ? If it only formed 
sects and schools, even as sentiment and mysticism form 
them, how would it fulfill its programme of freeing us 


from personal caprice and waywardness ? This perfectly 
definite practical test of the pretensions of philosophy 
to found religion on universal reason simplifies my pro- 
cedure to-day. I need not discredit philosophy by labori- 
ous criticism of its arguments. It will suffice if I show 
that as a matter of history it fails to prove its pretension 
to be ' objectively ' convincing. In fact, philosophy does 
so fail. It does not banish differences ; it founds schools 
and sects just as feeling does. I believe, in fact, that 
the logical reason of man operates in this field of divinity 
exactly as it has always operated in love, or in patriotism, 
or in politics, or in any other of the wider affairs of life, 
in which our passions or our mystical intuitions fix our 
beliefs beforehand. It finds arguments for our convic- 
tion, for indeed it has to find them. It amplifies and 
defines our faith, and dignifies it and lends it words and 
plausibility. It hardly ever engenders it ; it cannot now 
secure it. 1 

Lend me your attention while I run through some of 
the points of the older systematic theology. You find 
them in both Protestant and Catholic manuals, best of all 
in the innumerable text-books published since Pope Leo's 
Encyclical recommending the study of Saint Thomas. 
I glance first at the arguments by which dogmatic the- 

1 As regards the secondary character of intellectual constructions, and 
the primacy of feeling and instinct in founding religious beliefs, see the 
striking work of H. Fielding, The Hearts of Men, London, 1902, which 
came into my hands after my text was written. " Creeds," says the author, 
"are the grammar of religion, they are to religion what grammar is to 
speech. Words are the expression of our wants ; grammar is the theory 
formed afterwards. Speech never proceeded from grammar, but the re- 
verse. As speech progresses and changes from unknown causes, grammar 
must follow " (p. 313). The whole book, which keeps unusually close to 
concrete facts, is little more than an amplification of this text. 

\XeJL- Oui^^*- X * 


ology establishes God's existence, after that at those by 
which it establishes his nature. 1 

The arguments for God's existence have stood for 
hundreds of years with the waves of unbelieving- criti- 
cism breaking against them, never totally discrediting 
them in the ears of the faithful, but on the whole slowly 
and surely washing out the mortar from between their 
joints. If you have a God already whom you believe in, 
these arguments confirm you. If you are atheistic, they 
fail to set you right. The proofs are various. The ' cos- 
mological ' one, so-called, reasons from the contingence of 
the world to a First Cause which must contain whatever 
perfections the world itself contains. The 'argument 
from design ' reasons, from the fact that Nature's laws are 
mathematical, and her parts benevolently adapted to each 
other, that this cause is both intellectual and benevolent. 
The ' moral argument ' is that the moral law presupposes a 
lawgiver. The ' argument ex consensu gentium ' is that 
the belief in God is so widespread as to be grounded in 
the rational nature of man, and should therefore carry 
authority with it. 

As I just said, I will not discuss these arguments tech- 
nically. The bare fact that all idealists since Kant have 
felt entitled either to scout or to neglect them shows that 
they are not solid enough to serve as religion's all-suffi- 
cient foundation. Absolutely impersonal reasons would 
be in duty bound to show more general convincingness. 
Causation is indeed too obscure a principle to bear the 
weight of the whole structure of theology. As for the 

1 For convenience' sake, I follow the order of A. Stockl's Lehrbuch der 
Philosophie, 5te Auflage, Mainz, 1881, Band ii. B. Boedder's Natural 
Theology, London, 1891, is a handy English Catholic Manual ; but an 
almost identical doctrine is given by such Protestant theologians as C. 
Hodge : Systematic Theology, New York, 1873, or A. H. Strong : Syste- 
matic Theology, 5th edition, New York, 1896. 


argument from design, see how Darwinian ideas have 
revolutionized it. Conceived as we now conceive them, 
as so many fortunate escapes from almost limitless pro- 
cesses of destruction, the benevolent adaptations which 
we find in Nature suggest a deity very different from the 
one who figured in the earlier versions of the argument. 1 

1 It must not be forgotten that any form of disorder in the world might, 
by the design argument, suggest a God for just that kind of disorder. The 
truth is that any state of things whatever that can be named is logically 
susceptible of teleological interpretation. The ruins of the earthquake at 
Lisbon, for example : the whole of past history had to be planned exactly 
as it was to bring about in the fullness of time just that particular arrange- 
ment of de'bris of masonry, furniture, and once living bodies. No other 
train of causes would have been sufficient. And so of any other arrange- 
ment, bad or good, which might as a matter of fact be found resulting any- 
where from previous conditions. To avoid such pessimistic consequences 
and save its beneficent designer, the design argument accordingly invokes 
two other principles, restrictive in their operation. The first is physical : 
Nature's forces tend of their own accord only to disorder and destruction, 
to heaps of ruins, not to architecture. This principle, though plausible at 
first sight, seems, in the light of recent biology, to be more and more im- 
probable. The second principle is one of anthropomorphic interpretation. 
No arrangement that for us is ' disorderly ' can possibly have been an object 
of design at all. This principle is of course a mere assumption in the 
interests of anthropomorphic Theism. 

When one views the world with no definite theological bias one way or 
the other, one sees that order and disorder, as we now recognize them, are 
purely human inventions. We are interested in certain types of arrange- 
ment, useful, aesthetic, or moral, so interested that whenever we find 
them realized, the fact emphatically rivets our attention. The result is 
that we work over the contents of the world selectively. It is overflowing 
with disorderly arrangements from our point of view, but order is the 
only thing we care for and look at, and by choosing, one can always find 
some sort of orderly arrangement in the midst of any chaos. If I should 
throw down a thousand beans at random upon a table, I could doubtless, 
by eliminating a sufficient number of them, leave the rest in almost any 
geometrical pattern you might propose to me, and you might then say that 
that pattern was the thing prefigured beforehand, and that the other beans 
were mere irrelevance and packing material. Our dealings with Nature 
are just like this. She is a vast plenum in which our attention draws capri- 
cious lines in innumerable directions. We count and name whatever lies 
upon the special lines we trace, whilst the other things and the untraced lines 
are neither named nor counted. There are in reality infinitely more things 


The fact is that these arguments do but follow the com- 
bined suggestions of the facts and of our feeling. They 
prove nothing rigorously. They only corroborate our pre- 
existent partialities. 

If philosophy can do so little to establish God's exist- 
ence, how stands it with her efforts to define his attri- 
butes? It is worth while to look at the attempts of 
systematic theology in this direction. 

Since God is First Cause, this science of sciences says, he 
differs from all his creatures in possessing existence a se. 
From this ' a-se-ity ' on God's part, theology deduces by mere 
logic most of his other perfections. For instance, he must be 
both necessary and absolute, cannot not be, and cannot in any 
way be determined by anything else. This makes Him abso- 
lutely unlimited from without, and unlimited also from within ; 
for limitation is non-being ; and God is being itself. This un- 
limitedness makes God infinitely perfect. Moreover, God is 
One, and Only, for the infinitely perfect can admit no peer. 
He is Spiritual, for were He composed of physical parts, some 
other power would have to combine them into the total, and 
his aseity would thus be contradicted. He is therefore both 
simple and non-physical in nature. He is simple metaphysi- 
cally also, that is to say, his nature and his existence can- 

' unadapted ' to each other in this world than there are things ' adapted ' ; 
infinitely more things with irregular relations than with regular relations 
between them. But we look for the regular kind of thing exclusively, and 
ingeniously discover and preserve it in our memory. It accumulates with 
other regular kinds, until the collection of them fills our encyclopaedias. Yet 
all the while between and around them lies an infinite anonymous chaos 
of objects that no one ever thought of together, of relations that never yet 
attracted our attention. 

The facts of order from which the physico-theological argument starts 
are thus easily susceptible of interpretation as arbitrary human products. 
So long as this is the case, although of course no argument against God fol- 
lows, it follows that the argument for him will fail to constitute a knock- 
down proof of his existence. It will be convincing only to those who on 
other grounds believe in him already. 


not be distinct, as they are in finite substances which share 
their formal natures with one another, and are individual only 
in their material aspect. Since God is one and only, his essen- 
tia and his esse must be given at one stroke. This excludes 
from his being all those distinctions, so familiar in the world 
of finite things, between potentiality and actuality, substance 
and accidents, being and activity, existence and attributes. 
We can talk, it is true, of God's powers, acts, and attributes, 
but these discriminations are only ' virtual,' and made from 
the human point of view. In God all these points of view fall 
into an absolute identity of being. 

This absence of all potentiality in God obliges Him to be 
immutable. He is actuality, through and through. Were there 
anything potential about Him, He would either lose or gain by 
its actualization, and either loss or gain would contradict his 
perfection. He cannot, therefore, change. Furthermore, He is 
immense, boundless ; for could He be outlined in space, He 
would be composite, and this would contradict his indivisibility. 
He is therefore omnipresent, indivisibly there, at every point 
of space. He is similarly wholly present at every point of time, 
in other words eternal. For if He began in time, He would 
need a prior cause, and that would conti*adict his aseity. If He 
ended, it would contradict his necessity. If He went through 
any succession, it would contradict his immutability. 

He has intelligence and will and every other creature-perfec- 
tion, for we have them, and effectus nequit svperare causam. 
In Him, however, they are absolutely and eternally in act, 
and their object, since God can be bounded by naught that is 
external, can primarily be nothing else than God himself. 
He knows himself, then, in one eternal indivisible act, and 
wills himself with an infinite self-pleasure. 1 Since He must 
of logical necessity thus love and will himself, He cannot be 
called ' free ' ad intra, with the freedom of contrarieties that 
characterizes finite creatures. Ad extra, however, or with re- 
spect to his creation, God is free. He cannot need to create, 
being perfect in being and in happiness already. He wills to 
create, then, by an absolute freedom. 

1 For the scholastics the facultas appetendi embraces feeling, desire, and 


Being thus a substance endowed with intellect and will and 
freedom, God is a person ; and a living person also, for He is 
both object and subject of his own activity, and to be this dis- 
tinguishes the living from the lifeless. He is thus absolutely 
self-sufficient : his self-knowledge and self-love are both of them 
infinite and adequate, and need no extraneous conditions to 
perfect them. 

He is omniscient, for in knowing himself as Cause He knows 
all creature things and events by implication. His knowledge 
is previsive, for He is present to all time. Even our free acts 
are known beforehand to Him, for otherwise his wisdom would 
admit of successive moments of enrichment, and this would 
contradict his immutability. He is omnipotent for everything 
that does not involve logical contradiction. He can make being 
in other words his power includes creation. If what He 
creates were made of his own substance, it would have to be 
infinite in essence, as that substance is ; but it is finite ; so it 
must be non-divine in substance. If it were made of a sub- 
stance, an eternally existing matter, for example, which God 
found there to his hand, and to which He simply gave its form, 
that would contradict God's definition as First Cause, and make 
Him a mere mover of something caused already. The things 
he creates, then, He creates ex nihilo, and gives them absolute 
being as so many finite substances additional to himself. The 
forms which he imprints upon them have their prototypes in 
his ideas. But as in God there is no such thing as multipli- 
city, and as these ideas for us are manifold, we must distinguish 
the ideas as they are in God and the way in which our minds 
externally imitate them. We must attribute them to Him only 
in a terminative sense, as differing aspects, from the finite point 
of view, of his unique essence. 

God of course is holy, good, and just. He can do no evil, 
for He is positive being's fullness, and evil is negation. It is 
true that He has created physical evil in places, but only as a 
means of wider good, for bonum totius prceeminet bonum partis. 
Moral evil He cannot will, either as end or means, for that 
would contradict his holiness. By creating free beings He 
permits it only, neither his justice nor his goodness obliging 


Him to prevent the recipients of freedom from misusing the 

As regards God's purpose in creating, primarily it can only 
have been to exercise his absolute freedom by the manifesta- 
tion to others of his glory. From this it follows that the others 
must be rational beings, capable in the first place of know- 
ledge, love, and honor, and in the second place of happiness, 
for the knowledge and love of God is the mainspring of felicity. 
In so far forth one may say that God's secondary purpose in 
creating is love. 

I will not weary you by pursuing these metaphysical 
determinations farther, into the mysteries of God's Trin- 
ity, for example. What I have given will serve as a 
specimen of the orthodox philosophical theology of both 
Catholics and Protestants. Newman, filled with enthu- 
siasm at God's list of perfections, continues the passage 
which I began to quote to you by a couple of pages of a 
rhetoric so magnificent that I can hardly refrain from 
adding them, in spite of the inroad they would make 
upon our time. 1 He first enumerates God's attributes 
sonorously, then celebrates his ownership of everything in 
earth and Heaven, and the dependence of all that hap- 
pens upon his permissive will. He gives us scholastic philo- 
sophy ' touched with emotion,' and every philosophy 
should be touched with emotion to be rightly understood. 
Emotionally, then, dogmatic theology is worth something 
to minds of the type of Newman's. It will aid us to 
estimate what it is worth intellectually, if at this point I 
make a short digression. 

What God hath joined together, let no man put asun- 
der. The Continental schools of philosophy have too 
often overlooked the fact that man's thinking is organi- 
cally connected with his conduct. It seems to me to be 

1 Op. cit., Discourse III. 7. 


the chief glory of English and Scottish thinkers to have 
kept the organic connection in view. The guiding prin- 
ciple of British philosophy has in fact been that every 
difference must make a difference, every theoretical dif- 
ference somewhere issue in a practical difference, and 
that the best method of discussing points of theory is 
to begin by ascertaining what practical difference would 
result from one alternative or the other being true. 
What is the particular truth in question known as? 
In what facts does it result ? What is its cash-value 
in terms of particular experience ? This is the char- 
acteristic English way of taking up a question. In 
this way, you remember, Locke takes up the question of 
personal identity. What you mean by it is just your 
chain of particular memories, says he. That is the only 
concretely verifiable part of its significance. All further 
ideas about it, such as the oneness or manyness of the 
spiritual substance on which it is based, are therefore 
void of intelligible meaning ; and propositions touching 
such ideas may be indifferently affirmed or denied. So 
Berkeley with his i matter.' The cash-value of matter is 
our physical sensations. That is what it is known as, all 
that we concretely verify of its conception. That, there- 
fore, is the whole meaning of the term i matter ' any 
other pretended meaning is mere wind of words. Hume 
does the same thing with causation. It is known as 
habitual antecedence, and as tendency on our part to look 
for something definite to come. Apart from this practi- 
cal meaning it has no significance whatever, and books 
about it may be committed to the flames, says Hume. 
Dugald Stewart and Thomas Brown, James Mill, John 
Mill, and Professor Bain, have followed more or less 
consistently the same method ; and Shadworth Hodgson 
has used the principle with full explicitness. When all is 


said and done, it was English and Scotch writers, and 
not Kant, who introduced ' the critical method ' into 
philosophy, the one method fitted to make philosophy a 
study worthy of serious men. For what seriousness can 
possibly remain in debating philosophic propositions that 
will never make an appreciable difference to us in action ? 
And what could it matter, if all propositions were practi- 
cally indifferent, which of them we should agree to call 
true or which false ? 

An American philosopher of eminent originality, Mr. 
Charles Sanders Peirce, has rendered thought a service by 
disentangling from the particulars of its application the 
principle by which these men were instinctively guided, 
and by singling it out as fundamental and giving to it a 
Greek name. He calls it the principle of pragmatism, 
and he defends it somewhat as follows : * 

Thought in movement has for its only conceivable 
motive the attainment of belief, or thought at rest. Only 
when our thought about a subject has found its rest in 
belief can our action on the subject firmly and safely 
begin. Beliefs, in short, are rules for action ; and the 
whole function of thinking is but one step in the pro- 
duction of active habits. If there were any part of a 
thought that made no difference in the thought's prac- 
tical consequences, then that part would be no proper 
element of the thought's significance. To develop a 
thought's meaning we need therefore only determine 
what conduct it is fitted to produce ; that conduct is for 
us its sole significance ; and the tangible fact at the root 
of all our thought-distinctions is that there is no one of 
them so fine as to consist in anything but a possible dif- 
ference of practice. To attain perfect clearness in our 

1 In an article, How to make our Ideas Clear, in the Popular Science 
Monthly for January, 1878, vol. xii. p. 286. 


thoughts of an object, we need then only consider what 
sensations, immediate or remote, we are conceivably to 
expect from it, and what conduct we must prepare in case 
the object should be true. Our conception of these prac- 
tical consequences is for us the whole of our conception 
of the object, so far as that conception has positive sig- 
nificance at all. 

This is the principle of Peirce, the principle of prag- 
matism. Such a principle will help us on this occasion 
to decide, among the various attributes set down in the 
scholastic inventory of God's perfections, whether some 
be not far less significant than others. 

If, namely, we apply the principle of pragmatism to 
God's metaphysical attributes, strictly so called, as dis- 
tinguished from his moral attributes, I think that, even 
were we forced by a coercive logic to believe them, we 
still should have to confess them to be destitute of all 
intelligible significance. Take God's aseity, for example ; 
or his necessariness ; his immateriality ; his ' simplicity ' 
or superiority to the kind of inner variety and succession 
which we find in finite beings, his indivisibility, and lack 
of the inner distinctions of being and activity, substance 
and accident, potentiality and actuality, and the rest ; 
his repudiation of inclusion in a genus ; his actualized 
infinity ; his ' personality,' apart from the moral quali- 
ties which it may comfort ; his relations to evil being 
permissive and not positive ; his self-sufficiency, self- 
love, and absolute felicity in himself : candidly speak- 
ing, how do such qualities as these make any definite 
connection with our life ? And if they severally call for 
no distinctive adaptations of our conduct, what vital dif- 
ference can it possibly make to a man's religion whether 
they be true or false ? 

For my own part, although I dislike to say aught that 


may grate upon tender associations, I must frankly con- 
fess that even though these attributes were faultlessly 
deduced, I cannot conceive of its being of the smallest 
consequence to us religiously that any one of them 
should be true. Pray, what specific act can I perform in 
order to adapt myself the better to God's simplicity ? Or 
how does it assist me to plan my behavior, to know that 
his happiness is anyhow absolutely complete ? In the 
middle of the century just past, Mayne Reid was the great 
writer of books of out-of-door adventure. He was forever 
extolling the hunters and field-observers of living ani- 
mals' habits, and keeping up a fire of invective against 
the ' closet-naturalists,' as he called them, the collectors 
and classifiers, and handlers of skeletons and skins. 
When I was a boy, I used to think that a closet-natural- 
ist must be the vilest type of wretch under the sun. 
But surely the systematic theologians are the closet- 
naturalists of the deity, even in Captain Mayne Reid's 
sense. What is deduction of these metaphysical attri- 
butes but a shuffling and matching of pedantic diction- 
ary-adjectives, aloof from morals, aloof from human 
needs, something that might be worked out from the 
mere word ' God ' by one of those logical machines of 
wood and brass which recent ingenuity has contrived as 
well as by a man of flesh and blood. They have the 
trail of the serpent over them. One feels that in the 
theologians' hands, they are only a set of titles obtained 
by a mechanical manipulation of synonyms; verbality has 
stepped into the place of vision, professionalism into that 
of life. Instead of bread we have a stone ; instead of a 
fish, a serpent. Did such a conglomeration of abstract 
terms give really the gist of our knowledge of the deity, 
schools of theology might indeed continue to flourish, but 
religion, vital religion, would have taken its flight from 


vs^oA *-** 


this world. What keeps religion going' is something else 
than abstract definitions and systems of concatenated 
adjectives, and something different from faculties of 
theology and their professors. All these things are after- 
effects, secondary accretions upon those phenomena of 
vital conversation with the unseen divine, of which I 
have shown you so many instances, renewing themselves 
in scecula sceculorum in the lives of humble private men. 
So much for the metaphysical attributes of God ! 
From the point of view of practical religion, the meta- 
physical monster which they offer to our worship is an 
absolutely worthless invention of the scholarly mind. 

What shall we now say of the attributes called moral ? 
Pragmatically, they stand on an entirely different footing. 
They positively determine fear and hope and expectation, 
and are foundations for the saintly life. It needs but a 
glance at them to show how great is their significance. 

God's holiness, for example : being holy, God can will 
nothing but the good. Being omnipotent, he can secure 
its triumph. Being omniscient, he can see us in the 
dark. Being just, he can punish us for what he sees. 
Being loving, he can pardon too. Being unalterable, we 
can count on him securely. These qualities enter into 
connection with our life, it is highly important that we 
should be informed concerning them. That God's pur- 
pose in creation should be the manifestation of his glory 
is also an attribute which has definite relations to our 
practical life. Among other things it has given a definite 
character to worship in all Christian countries. If dog- 
matic theology really does prove beyond dispute that a 
God with characters like these exists, she may well claim 
to give a solid basis to religious sentiment. But verily, 
how stands it with her arguments ? 


It stands with them as ill as with the arguments for 
his existence. Not only do post-Kantian idealists reject 
them root and branch, but it is a plain historic fact that 
tbey never have converted any one who has found in the 
moral complexion of the world, as he experienced it, 
reasons for doubting that a good God can have framed 
it. To prove God's goodness by the scholastic argument 
that there is no non-being in his essence would sound to 
such a witness simply silly. 

No ! the book of Job went over this whole matter 
once for all and definitively. Ratiocination is a relatively 
superficial and unreal path to the deity : " I will lay mine 
hand upon my mouth ; I have heard of Thee by the 
hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee." An 
intellect perplexed and baffled, yet a trustful sense of 
presence such is the situation of the man w T ho is sin- 
cere with himself and with the facts, but who remains 
religious still. 1 

We must therefore, I think, bid a definitive good-by 
to dogmatic theology. In all sincerity our faith must do 
without that warrant. Modern idealism, I repeat, has said 
good-by to this theology forever. Can modern idealism 
give faith a better warrant, or must she still rely on her 
poor self for witness ? 

The basis of modern idealism is Kant's doctrine of the 

1 Pragmatically, the most important attribute of God is his punitive jus- 
tice. But who, in the present state of theological opinion on that point, will 
dare maintain that hell fire or its equivalent in some shape is rendered cer- 
tain by pure logic ? Theology herself has largely based this doctrine upon 
revelation ; and, in discussing it, has tended more and more to substitute 
conventional ideas of criminal law for a priori principles of reason. But 
the very notion that this glorious universe, with planets and winds, and 
laughing sky and ocean, should have been conceived and had its beams and 
rafters laid in technicalities of criminality, is incredible to our modern 
imagination. It weakens a religion to hear it argued upon such a basis. 


Transcendental Ego of Apperception. By this formidable 
term Kant merely meant the fact that the consciousness 
( I think them ' must (potentially or actually) accompany 
all our objects. Former skeptics had said as much, but 
the ' I ' in question had remained for them identified with 
the personal individual. Kant abstracted and deper- 
sonalized it, and made it the most universal of all his 
categories, although for Kant himself the Transcendental 
Ego had no theological implications. 

It was reserved for his successors to convert Kant's 
notion of Bewusstsein uberhaupt, or abstract conscious- 
ness, into an infinite concrete self-consciousness which is 
the soul of the world, and in which our sundry personal 
self-consciousnesses have their beinsf- It would lead me 
into technicalities to show you even briefly how this 
transformation was in point of fact effected. Suffice it 
to say that in the Hegelian school, which to-day so deeply 
influences both British and American thinking, two prin- 
ciples have borne the brunt of the operation. 

The first of these principles is that the old logic of 
identity never gives us more than a post-mortem dissec- 
tion of disjecta rnembra, and that the fullness of life can 
be construed to thought only by recognizing that every 
object which our thought may propose to itself involves 
the notion of some other object which seems at first to 
neonate the first one. 

The second principle is that to be conscious of a nega- 
tion is already virtually to be beyond it. The mere ask- 
ing of a question or expression of a dissatisfaction proves 
that the answer or the satisfaction is already imminent ; 
the finite, realized as such, is already the infinite in 

Applying these principles, we seem to get a propulsive 
force into our logic which the ordinary logic of a bare, 


stark self-identity in each thing never attains to. The 
objects of our thought now act within our thought, act as 
objects act when given in experience. They change and 
develop. They introduce something other than them- 
selves along with them ; and this other, at first only ideal 
or potential, presently proves itself also to be actual. It 
supersedes the thing at first supposed, and both verifies 
and corrects it, in developing the fullness of its meaning. 
The program is excellent; the universe is a place 
where things are followed by other things that both cor- 
rect and fulfill them ; and a logic which gave us some- 
thing like this movement of fact would express truth far 
better than the traditional school-logic, which never gets 
of its own accord from anything to anything else, and 
registers only predictions and subsumptions, or static re- 
semblances and differences. Nothing could be more un- 
like the methods of dogmatic theology than those of this 
new logic. Let me quote in illustration some passages 
from the Scottish transcendentalist whom I have already 

" How are we to conceive," Principal Caird writes, " of the 
reality in which all intelligence rests?" He replies: "Two 
things may without difficulty be proved, viz., that this reality 
is an absolute Spirit, and conversely that it is only in com- 
munion with this absolute Spirit or Intelligence that the finite 
Spirit can realize itself. It is absolute ; for the faintest move- 
ment of human intelligence would be arrested, if it did not 
presuppose the absolute reality of intelligence, of thought 
itself. Doubt or denial themselves presuppose and indirectly 
affirm it. When I pronounce anything to be true, I pronounce 
it, indeed, to be relative to thought, but not to be relative to 
my thought, or to the thought of any other individual mind. 
From the existence of all individual minds as such I can ab- 
stract : I can think them awav. But that which I cannot think 
away is thought or self-consciousness itself, in its independence 


and absoluteness, or, in other words, an Absolute Thought or 

Here, you see, Principal Caird makes the transition 
which Kant did not make : he converts the omnipre- 
sence of consciousness in general as a condition of ' truth ' 
being anywhere possible, into an omnipresent universal 
consciousness, which he identifies with God in his con- 
creteness. He next proceeds to use the principle that 
to acknowledge your limits is in essence to be beyond, 
them ; and makes the transition to the religious experi- 
ence of individuals in the following words : 

" If [Man] were only a creature of transient sensations and 
impulses, of an ever coming and going succession of intuitions, 
fancies, feelings, then nothing could ever have for him the char- 
acter of objective truth or reality. But it is the prerogative of 
man's spiritual nature that he can yield himself up to a thought 
and will that are infinitely larger than his own. As a think- 
ing, self-conscious being, indeed, he may be said, by his very 
nature, to live in the atmosphere of the Universal Life. As a 
thinking being, it is possible for me to suppress and quell in 
my consciousness every movement of self-assertion, every notion 
and opinion that is merely mine, every desire that belongs to 
me as this particular Self, and to become the pure medium of a 
thought that is universal in one word, to live no more my 
own life, but let my consciousness be possessed and suffused 
by the Infinite and Eternal life of spirit. And yet it is just 
in this renunciation of self that I truly gain myself, or realize 
the highest possibilities of my own nature. For whilst in one 
sense we give up self to live the universal and absolute life of 
reason, yet that to which we thus surrender ourselves is in 
reality our truer self. The life of absolute reason is not a life 
that is foreign to us." 

Nevertheless, Principal Caird goes on to say, so far as 
we are able outwardly to realize this doctrine, the balm 
it offers remains incomplete. Whatever we may be in 
posse, the very best of us in actu falls very short of 


being absolutely divine. Social morality, love, and self- 
sacrifice even, merge our Self only in some other finite 
self or selves. They do not quite identify it with the 
Infinite. Man's ideal destiny, infinite in abstract logic, 
might thus seem in practice forever unrealizable. 

" Is there, then," our author continues, " no solution of the 
contradiction between the ideal and the actual ? We answer, 
There is such a solution, but in order to reach it we are carried 
beyond the sphere of morality into that of religion. It may be 
said to be the essential characteristic of religion as contrasted 
with morality, that it changes aspiration into fruition, anticipa- 
tion into realization ; that instead of leaving man in the inter- 
minable pursuit of a vanishing ideal, it makes him the actual 
partaker of a divine or infinite life. Whether we view religion 
from the human side or the divine as the surrender of the 
soul to God, or as the life of God in the soul in either aspect 
it is of its very essence that the Infinite has ceased to be a far- 
off vision, and has become a present reality. The very first 
pulsation of the spiritual life, when we rightly apprehend its 
significance, is the indication that the division between the 
Spirit and its object has vanished, that the ideal has become 
real, that the finite has reached its goal and become suffused 
with the presence and life of the Infinite. 

" Oneness of mind and will with the divine mind and will 
is not the future hope and aim of religion, but its very begin- 
ning and birth in the soul. To enter on the religious life is to 
terminate the struggle. In that act which constitutes the be- 
ginning of the religious life call it faith, or trust, or self-sur- 
render, or by whatever name you will there is involved the 
identification of the finite with a life which is eternally realized. 
It is true indeed that the religious life is progressive ; but 
understood in the light of the foregoing idea, religious progress 
is not progress towards, but within the sphere of the Infinite. 
It is not the vain attempt by endless finite additions or incre- 
ments to become possessed of infinite wealth, but it is the 
endeavor, by the constant exercise of spiritual activity, to ap- 
propriate that infinite inheritance of which we are already in 


possession. The whole future of the religious life is given in 
its beginning, but it is given implicitly. The position of the 
man who has entered on the religious life is that evil, error, 
imperfection, do not really belong to him : they are excres- 
cences which have no organic relation to his true nature : they 
are already virtually, as they will be actually, suppressed and 
annulled, and in the very process of being annulled they become 
the means of spiritual progress. Though he is not exempt 
from temptation and conflict, [yet] in that inner sphere in 
which his true life lies, the struggle is over, the victory already 
achieved. It is not a finite but an infinite life which the spirit 
lives. Every pulse-beat of its [existence] is the expression and 
realization of the life of God." 1 

You will readily admit that no description of the pheno- 
mena of the religious consciousness could be better than 
these words of your lamented preacher and philosopher. 
They reproduce the very rapture of those crises of con- 
version of which we have been hearing ; they utter what 
the mystic felt but was unable to communicate ; and the 
saint, in hearing them, recognizes his own experience. 
It is indeed gratifying to find the content of religion 
reported so unanimously. But when all is said and done, 
has Principal Caird and I only use him as an example 
of that whole mode of thinking transcended the sphere 
of feeling and of the direct experience of the individual, 
and laid the foundations of religion in impartial reason ? 
Has he made religion universal by coercive reasoning, 
transformed it from a private faith into a public cer- 
tainty ? Has he rescued its affirmations from obscurity 
and mystery ? 

I believe that he has done nothing of the kind, but 
that he has simply reaffirmed the individual's experiences 
in a more generalized vocabulary. And again, I can be 

1 John Caird : An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, London 
and New York, 1880, pp. 243-250, and 291-299, much abridged. 


excused from proving technically that the transcenclental- 
ist reasonings fail to make religion universal, for I can 
point to the plain fact that a majority of scholars, even 
religiously disposed ones, stubbornly refuse to treat them 
as convincing. The whole of Germany, one may say, 
has positively rejected the Hegelian argumentation. As 
for Scotland, I need only mention Professor Fraser's and 
Professor Pringle-Pattison's memorable criticisms, with 
which so many of you are familiar. 1 Once more, I ask, 
if transcendental idealism were as objectively and abso- 
lutely rational as it pretends to be, could it possibly fail 
so egregiously to be persuasive ? 

What religion reports, you must remember, always pur- 
ports to be a fact of experience : the divine is actually 
present, religion says, and between it and ourselves rela- 
tions of give and take are actual. If definite percep- 
tions of fact like this cannot stand upon their own feet, 

1 A. C. Fraser : Philosophy of Theism, second edition, Edinburgh and 
London, 1899, especially part ii. chaps, vii. and viii. ; A. Seth [Pringle- 
Pattison] : Hegelianism and Personality, Ibid., 1890, passim. 

The most persuasive arguments in favor of a concrete individual Soul of 
the world, with which I am acquainted, are those of my colleague, Josiah 
Royce, in his Religious Aspect of Philosophy, Boston, 1885 ; in his Con- 
ception of God, New York and London, 1897 ; and lately in his Aberdeen 
Gifford Lectures, The World and the Individual, 2 vols., New York and 
London, 1901-02. I doubtless seem to some of my readers to evade the 
philosophic duty which my thesis in this lecture imposes on me, by not even 
attempting to meet Professor Royce's arguments articulately. I admit the 
momentary evasion. In the present lectures, which are cast throughout in 
a popular mould, there seemed no room for suhtle metaphysical discussion, 
and for tactical purposes it was sufficient, the contention of philosophy being 
what it is (namely, that religion can be transformed into a universally con- 
vincing science), to point to the fact that no religious philosophy has actually 
convinced the mass of thinkers. Meanwhile let me say that I hope that the 
present volume may be followed by another, if I am spared to write it, in 
which not only Professor Royce's arguments, but others for monistic abso- 
lutism shall be considered with all the technical fullness which their great 
importance calls for. At present I resign myself to lying passive under the 
reproach of superficiality. 


surely abstract reasoning cannot give them the support 
they are in need of. Conceptual processes can class facts, 
define them, interpret them ; but they do not produce 
them, nor can they reproduce their individuality. There 
is always a plus, a thisness, which feeling alone can 
answer for. Philosophy in this sphere is thus a secondary 
function, unable to warrant faith's veracity, and so I 
revert to the thesis which I announced at the beginning 
of this lecture. 

In all sad sincerity I think we must conclude that the 
attempt to demonstrate by purely intellectual processes 
the truth of the deliverances of direct religious experience 
is absolutely hopeless. 

It would be unfair to philosophy, however, to leave 
her under this negative sentence. Let me close, then, by 
briefly enumerating what she can do for religion. If she 
will abandon metaphysics and deduction for criticism and 
induction, and frankly transform herself from theology 
into science of religions, she can make herself enormously 

The spontaneous intellect of man always defines the 
divine which it feels in ways that harmonize with its 
temporary intellectual prepossessions. Philosophy can by 
comparison eliminate the local and the accidental from 
these definitions. Both from dogma and from worship 
she can remove historic incrustations. By confronting 
the spontaneous religious constructions with the results of 
natural science, philosophy can also eliminate doctrines 
that are now known to be scientifically absurd or incon- 

Sifting out in this way unworthy formulations, she can 
leave a residuum of conceptions that at least are possible. 
With these she can deal as hypotheses, testing them in 


all the manners, whether negative or positive, by which 
hypotheses are ever tested. She can reduce their num- 
ber, as some are found more open to objection. She can 
perhaps become the champion of one which she picks out 
as being the most closely verified or verifiable. She can 
refine upon the definition of this hypothesis, distinguish- 
ing between what is innocent over-belief and symbolism 
in the expression of it, and what is to be literally taken. 
As a result, she can offer mediation between different 
believers, and help to bring about consensus of opinion. 
She can do this the more successfully, the better she dis- 
criminates the common and essential from the individual 
and local elements of the religious beliefs which she com- 

I do not see why a critical Science of Religions of this 
sort might not eventually command as general a public 
adhesion as is commanded by a physical science. Even 
the personally non-religious might accept its conclusions 
on trust, much as blind persons now accept the facts of 
optics it might appear as foolish to refuse them. Yet 
as the science of optics has to be fed in the first instance, 
and continually verified later, by facts experienced by 
seeing persons ; so the science of religions would depend 
for its original material on facts of personal experience, 
and would have to square itself with personal experience 
through all its critical reconstructions. It could never get 
away from concrete life, or work in a conceptual vacuum. 
It would forever have to confess, as every science con- 
fesses, that the subtlety of nature flies beyond it, and that 
its formulas are but approximations. Philosophy lives in 
words, but truth and fact well up into our lives in ways 
that exceed verbal formulation. There is in the living; 
act of perception always something that glimmers and 
twinkles and will not be caught, and for which reflection 


comes too late. No one knows this as well as the philo- 
sopher. He must fire his volley of new vocables out of 
his conceptual shotgun, for his profession condemns him 
to this industry, but he secretly knows the hollowness 
and irrelevancy. His formulas are like stereoscopic or 
kinetoscopic photographs seen outside the instrument; 
they lack the depth, the motion, the vitality. In the 
religious sphere, in particular, belief that formulas are 
true can never wholly take the place of personal expe- 

In my next lecture I will try to complete my rough 
description of religious experience ; and in the lecture 
after that, which is the last one, I will try my own hand 
at formulating conceptually the truth to which it is a 




E have wound our way back, after our excursion 
through mysticism and philosophy, to where we 
were before : the uses of religion, its uses to the indi- 
vidual who has it, and the uses of the individual himself 
to the world, are the best arguments that truth is in it. 
We return to the empirical philosophy : the true is what 
works well, even though the qualification ' on the whole ' 
may always have to be added. In this lecture we must 
revert to description again, and finish our picture of the 
religious consciousness by a word about some of its other 
characteristic elements. Then, in a final lecture, we shall 
be free to make a general review and draw our independ- 
ent conclusions. 

The first point I will speak of is the part which the 
aesthetic life plays in determining one's choice of a reli- 
gion. Men, I said awhile ago, involuntarily intellectu- 
alize their religious experience. They need formulas, 
just as they need fellowship in worship. I spoke, there- 
fore, too contemptuously of the pragmatic uselessness of 
the famous scholastic list of attributes of the deity, for 
they have one use which I neglected to consider. The 
eloquent passage in which Newman enumerates them 1 
puts us on the track of it. Intoning them as he would 
intone a cathedral service, he shows how high is their 
aesthetic value. It enriches our bare piety to carry these 
exalted and mysterious verbal additions just as it enriches 

1 Idea of a University, Discourse III. 7. 


a church to have an organ and old brasses, marbles and 
frescoes and stained windows. Epithets lend an atmos- 
phere and overtones to our devotion. They are like a 
hymn of praise and service of glory, and may sound the 
more sublime for being incomprehensible. Minds like 
Newman's 1 grow as jealous of their credit as heathen 
priests are of that of the jewelry and ornaments that 
blaze upon their idols. 

Among the buildings-out of religion which the mind 
spontaneously indulges in, the aesthetic motive must never 
be forgotten. I promised to say nothing of ecclesiastical 
systems in these lectures. I may be allowed, however, 
to put in a word at this point on the way in which their 
satisfaction of certain aesthetic needs contributes to their 
hold on human nature. Although some persons aim 
most at intellectual purity and simplification, for others 
richness is the supreme imaginative requirement. 2 When 
one's mind is strongly of this type, an individual religion 
will hardly serve the purpose. The inner need is rather 

1 Newman's imagination so innately craved an ecclesiastical system that 
he can write : " From the age of fifteen, dogma has been the fundamental 
principle of my religion : I know no other religion ; I cannot enter into the 
idea of any other sort of religion." And again, speaking of himself about 
the age of thirty, he writes : " I loved to act as feeling myself in my 
Bishop's sight, as if it were the sight of God." Apologia, 1897, pp. 48, 50. 

2 The intellectual difference is quite on a par in practical importance 
with the analogous difference in character. We saw, under the head of 
Saintliness, how some characters resent confusion and must live in purity, 
consistency, simplicity (above, p. 280 ff.). For others, on the contrary, 
superabundance, over-pressure, stimulation, lots of superficial relations, are 
indispensable. There are men who would suffer a very syncope if you 
should pay all their debts, bring it about that their engagements had been 
kept, their letters answered, their perplexities relieved, and their duties 
fulfilled, down to one which lay on a clean table under their eyes with 
nothing to interfere with its immediate performance. A day stripped so 
staringly bare would be for them appalling. So with ease, elegance, trib- 
utes of affection, social recognitions some of us require amounts of these 
things which to others would appear a mass of lying and sophistication. 


of something institutional and complex, majestic in the 
hierarchic interrelatedness of its parts, with authority de- 
scending from stage to stage, and at every stage objects 
for adjectives of mystery and splendor, derived in the 
last resort from the Godhead who is the fountain and 
culmination of the system. One feels then as if in pre- 
sence of some vast incrusted work of jewelry or architec- 
ture ; one hears the multitudinous liturgical appeal ; one 
gets the honorific vibration coming from every quarter. 
Compared with such a noble complexity, in which as- 
scending and descending movements seem in no way to 
jar upon stability, in which no single item, however hum- 
ble, is insignificant, because so many august institutions 
hold it in its place, how flat does evangelical Protestant- 
ism appear, how bare the atmosphere of those isolated re- 
ligfious lives whose boast it is that " man in the bush with 
God may meet." * What a pulverization and leveling of 
what a gloriously piled-up structure ! To an imagination 
used to the perspectives of dignity and glory, the naked 
gospel scheme seems to offer an almshouse for a palace. 

It is much like the patriotic sentiment of those brought 
up in ancient empires. How many emotions must be 
frustrated of their object, when one gives up the titles of 
dignity, the crimson lights and blare of brass, the gold 
embroidery, the plumed troops, the fear and trembling, 
and puts up with a president in a black coat who shakes 
hands with you, and comes, it may be, from a ' home ' 
upon a veldt or prairie with one sitting-room and a Bible 
on its centre-table. It pauperizes the monarchical imagi- 
nation ! 

The strength of these aesthetic sentiments makes it 


1 In Newman's Lectures on Justification, Lecture VIII. 6, there is a 
splendid passage expressive of this {esthetic way of feeling the Christian 
scheme. It is unfortunately too long to quote. 


rigorously impossible, it seems to me, that Protestantism, 
however superior in spiritual profundity it may be to 
Catholicism, should at the present day succeed in making 
many converts from the more venerable ecclesiasticism. 
The latter offers a so much richer pasturage and shade 
to the fancy, has so many cells with so many different 
kinds of honey, is so indulgent in its multiform appeals 
to human nature, that Protestantism will always show to 
Catholic eyes the almshouse physiognomy. The bitter 
negativity of it is to the Catholic mind incomprehensi- 
ble. To intellectual Catholics many of the antiquated 
beliefs and practices to which the Church gives counte- 
nance are, if taken literally, as childish as they are to 
Protestants. But they are childish in the pleasing sense 
of i childlike,' innocent and amiable, and worthy to be 
smiled on in consideration of the undeveloped condition 
of the dear people's intellects. To the Protestant, on 
the contrary, they are childish in the sense of being 
idiotic falsehoods. He must stamp out their delicate and 
lovable redundancy, leaving the Catholic to shudder at 
his literalness. He appears to the latter as morose as if 
he were some hard-eyed, numb, monotonous kind of rep- 
tile. The two will never understand each other their 
centres of emotional energy are too different. Rigorous 
truth and human nature's intricacies are always in need 
of a mutual interpreter. 1 So much for the aesthetic diver- 
sities in the religious consciousness. 

1 Compare the informality of Protestantism, where the ' meek lover of 
the good,' alone with his God, visits the sick, etc., for their own sakes, with 
the elahorate ' business ' that goes on in Catholic devotion, and carries with 
it the social excitement of all more complex businesses. An essentially 
worldly-minded Catholic woman can become a visitor of the sick on purely 
coquettish principles, with her confessor and director, her 'merit' storing 
up, her patron saints, her privileged relation to the Almighty, drawing his 
attention as a professional devote, her definite ' exercises,' and her definitely 
recognized social pose in the organization. 


In most books on religion, three things are represented 
as its most essential elements. These are Sacrifice, Con- 
V fession, and Prayer. I must say a word in turn of each 

of these elements, though briefly. First of Sacrifice. 

Sacrifices to gods are omnipresent in primeval worship ; 
but, as cults have grown refined, burnt offerings and 
the blood of he-goats have been superseded by sacri- 
fices more spiritual in their nature. Judaism, Islam, and 
Buddhism get along without ritual sacrifice ; so does 
Christianity, save in so far as the notion is preserved in 
transfigured form in the mystery of Christ's atonement. 
These religions substitute offerings of the heart, renun- 
ciations of the inner self, for all those vain oblations. 
In the ascetic practices which Islam, Buddhism, and the 
older Christianity encourage we see how indestructible is 
the idea that sacrifice of some sort is a religious exercise. 
In lecturing on asceticism I spoke of its significance as 
symbolic of the sacrifices which life, whenever it is taken 
strenuously, calls for. 1 But, as I said my say about 
those, and as these lectures expressly avoid earlier reli- 
gious usages and questions of derivation, I will pass from 
the subject of Sacrifice altogether and turn to that of 

In regard to Confession I will also be most brief, say- 
ing my word about it psychologically, not historically. 
Not nearly as widespread as sacrifice, it corresponds to a 
more inward and moral stage of sentiment. It is part of 
the general system of purgation and cleansing which one 
feels one's self in need of, in order to be in right rela- 
tions to one's deity. For him who confesses, shams are 
over and realities have begun ; he has exteriorized his rot- 
tenness. If he has not actually got rid of it, he at least 

1 Above, p. 362 ff. 


no longer smears it over with a hypocritical show of 
virtue he lives at least upon a basis of veracity. The 
complete decay of the practice of confession in Anglo- 
Saxon communities is a little hard to account for. Re- 
action against popery is of course the historic explana- 
tion, for in popery confession went with penances and 
absolution, and other inadmissible practices. But on the 
side of the sinner himself it seems as if the need ought 
to have been too great to accept so summary a refusal of 
its satisfaction. One would think that in more men the 
shell of secrecy would have had to open, the pent-in 
abscess to burst and gain relief, even though the ear 
that heard the confession were unworthy. The Catholic 
church, for obvious utilitarian reasons, has substituted 
auricular confession to one priest for the more radical 
act of public confession. We English-speaking Protes- 
tants, in the general self-reliance and unsociability of our 
nature, seem to find it enough if we take God alone into 
our confidence. 1 

The next topic on which I must comment is Prayer^ V 
and this time it must be less briefly. We have heard 
much talk of late against prayer, especially against prayers 
for better weather and for the recovery of sick people. 
As regards prayers for the sick, if any medical fact can 
be considered to stand firm, it is that in certain envi- 
ronments prayer may contribute to recovery, and should 
be encouraged as a therapeutic measure. Being a nor- 
mal factor of moral health in the person, its omission 
would be deleterious. The case of the weather is differ- 
ent. Notwithstanding the recency of the opposite belief, 2 

1 A fuller discussion of confession is contained in the excellent work by 
Frank Granger : The Soul of a Christian, London, 1900, ch. xii. 

2 Example : " The minister at Sudbury, being at the Thursday lecture in 

e > 


every one now knows that droughts and storms follow 
from physical antecedents, and that moral appeals cannot 
avert them. But petitional prayer is only one depart- 
ment of prayer ; and if we take the word in the wider 
sense as meaning every kind of inward communion or 
conversation with the power recognized as divine, we can 
easily see that scientific criticism leaves it untouched. 

Prayer in this wide sense is the very soul and essence 
of religion. " Religion," says a liberal French theolo- 
gian, " is an intercourse, a conscious and voluntary rela- 
tion, entered into by a soul in distress with the mysteri- 
ous power upon which it feels itself to depend, and upon 
which its fate is contingent. This intercourse with God 
is realized by prayer. Prayer is religion in act ; that is, 
prayer is real religion. It is prayer that distinguishes 
the religious phenomenon from such similar or neighbor- 
ing phenomena as purely moral or aesthetic sentiment. 
Religion is nothing if it be not the vital act by which 
the entire mind seeks to save itself by clinging to the 
principle from which it draws its life. This act is prayer, 
by which term I understand no vain exercise of words, 
no mere repetition of certain sacred formulae, but the 
very movement itself of the soul, putting itself in a per- 
sonal relation of contact with the mysterious power of 
which it feels the presence, it may be even before it 
has a name by which to call it. Wherever this interior 
prayer is lacking, there is no religion ; wherever, on the 
other hand, this prayer rises and stirs the soul, even in 
the absence of forms or of doctrines, we have living reli- 
gion. One sees from this why ' natural religion,' so- 

Bostou, heard the officiating clergyman praying for rain. As soon as the 
service was over, he went to the petitioner and said, ' You Boston minis- 
ters, as soon as a tulip wilts under your windows, go to church and pray for 
rain, until all Concord and Sudhury are under water.'" R. W. Emerson: 
Lectures and Biographical Sketches, p. 363. 


Oiov> ^ oc^a '^wot^e/V 


called, is not properly a religion. It cuts man off from 
prayer. It leaves him and God in mutual remoteness, 
with no intimate commerce, no interior dialogue, no in- 
terchange, no action of God in man, no return of man 
to God. At bottom this pretended religion is only a 
philosophy. Born at epochs of rationalism, of critical 
investigations, it never was anything but an abstraction. 
An artificial and dead creation, it reveals to its examiner 
hardly one of the characters proper to religion." 1 

It seems to me that the entire series of our lectures 
proves the truth of M. Sabatier's contention. The reli- 
gious phenomenon, studied as an inner fact, and apart 
from ecclesiastical or theological complications, has shown 
itself to consist everywhere, and at all its stages, in the 
consciousness which individuals have of an intercourse 
between themselves and higher powers with which they 
feel themselves to be related. This intercourse is re- 
alized at the time as being both active and mutual. If it 
be not effective ; if it be not a give and take relation ; if 
nothing be really transacted while it lasts ; if the world 
is in no whit different for its having taken place ; then 
prayer, taken in this wide meaning of a sense that some- 
thing is transacting, is of course a feeling of what is 
illusory, and religion must on the whole be classed, not 
simply as containing elements of delusion, these un- 
doubtedly everywhere exist, but as being rooted in 
delusion altogether, just as materialists and atheists have 
always said it was. At most there might remain, when 
the direct experiences of prayer were ruled out as false 
witnesses, some inferential belief that the whole order of 
existence must have a divine cause. But this way of 
contemplating nature, pleasing as it would doubtless be 

1 Auguste Sabatier : Esquisse d'une Philosophie de la Religion, 2me 
eU, 1897, pp. 24-26, abridged. 


to persons of a pious taste, would leave to them but the 
spectators' part at a play, whereas in experimental reli- 
gion and the prayerful life, we seem ourselves to be the 
actors, not in a play, but in a very serious reality. 

The genuineness of religion is thus indissolubly bound 
up with the question whether the prayerful conscious- 
ness be or be not deceitful. The conviction that some- 
thing is genuinely transacted in this consciousness is the 
very core of living religion. As to what is transacted, 
great differences of opinion have prevailed. The unseen 
powers have been supposed, and are yet supposed, to do 
things which no enlightened man can nowadays believe in. 
It may well prove that the sphere of influence in prayer 
is subjective exclusively, and that what is immediately 
changed is only the mind of the praying person. But 
however our opinion of prayer's effects may come to be 
limited by criticism, religion, in the vital sense in which 
these lectures study it, must stand or fall by the per- 
suasion that effects of some sort genuinely do occur. 
Through prayer, religion insists, things which cannot be 
realized in any other manner come about : energy which 
but for prayer would be bound is by prayer set free and 
operates in some part, be it objective or subjective, of 
the world of experienced phenomena or facts. 

This postulate is strikingly expressed in a letter written 
by the late Frederic W. H. Myers to a friend, who allows 
me to quote from it. It shows how independent the 
prayer-instinct is of usual doctrinal complications. Mr. 
Myers writes : 

" I am glad that you have asked me about prayer, because I 
have rather strong ideas on the subject. First consider what 
are the facts. There exists around us a spiritual universe, and 
that universe is in actual relation with the material. From the 
spiritual universe comes the energy which maintains the mate- 


rial ; the energy which makes the life of each individual spirit. 
Our spirits are supported by a perpetual indrawal of this 
energy, and the vigor of that indrawal is perpetually changing, 
much as the vigor of our absorption of material nutriment 
changes from hour to hour. 

" I call these ' facts ' because I think that some scheme of 
this kind is the only one consistent with our actual evidence ; 
too complex to summarize here. How, then, should we act on 
these facts ? Plainly we must endeavor to draw in as much 
spiritual life as possible, and we must place our minds in any 
attitude which experience shows to be favorable to such in- 
drawal. Prayer is the general name for that attitude of open 
and earnest expectancy. If we then ask to whom to pray, the 
answer (strangely enough) must be that that does not much 
matter. The prayer is not indeed a purely subjective thing ; 
it means a real increase in intensity of absorption of spiritual 
power or grace ; but we do not know enough of what takes 
place in the spiritual world to know how the prayer operates ; 

who is cognizant of it, or through what channel the grace is 
given. Better let children pray to Christ, who is at any rate 
the highest individual spirit of whom we have any knowledge. 
But it would be rash to say that Christ himself hears us ; while 
to say that God hears us is merely to restate the first principle, 

that grace flows in from the infinite spiritual world." 

Let us reserve the question of the truth or falsehood 
of the belief that power is absorbed until the next lec- 
ture, when our dogmatic conclusions, if we have any, 
must be reached. Let this lecture still confine itself to 
the description of phenomena ; and as a concrete exam- 
ple of an extreme sort, of the way in which the prayerful 
life may still be led, let me take a case with which most 
of you must be acquainted, that of George Miiller of 
Bristol, who died in 1898. Miiller's prayers were of the 
crassest petitional order. Early in life he resolved on 
taking certain Bible promises in literal sincerity, and on 
letting himself be fed, not by his own worldly foresight, 


but by the Lord's baud. He bad an extraordinarily 
active and successful career, among tbe fruits of wbicb 
were tbe distribution of over two million copies of tbe 
Scripture text, in different languages ; tbe equipment of 
several hundred missionaries ; tbe circulation of more 
than a hundred and eleven million of scriptural books, 
pamphlets, and tracts ; the building of five large orphan- 
ages, and the keeping and educating of thousands of 
orphans ; finally, tbe establishment of schools in which 
over a hundred and twenty-one thousand youthful and 
adult pupils were taught. In the course of this work 
Mr. Muller received and administered nearly a million 
and a half of pounds sterling, and traveled over two hun- 
dred thousand miles of sea and land. 1 During the sixty- 
eight years of his ministry, he never owned any property 
except his clothes and furniture, and cash in hand ; and 
be left, at the age of eighty-six, an estate worth only a 
hundred and sixty pounds. 

His method was to let his general wants be publicly known, 
but not to acquaint other people with the details of his tempo- 
rary necessities. For the relief of the latter, he prayed directly 
to the Lord, believing that sooner or later prayers are always 
answered if one have trust enough. " When I lose such a 
thing as a key," he writes, " I ask the Lord to direct me to it, 
and I look for an answer to my prayer ; when a person with 
whom I have made an appointment does not come, according 
to the fixed time, and I begin to be inconvenienced by it, I ask 
the Lord to be pleased to hasten him to me, and I look for an 
answer ; when I do not understand a passage of the word of 
God, I lift up my heart to the Lord that he would be pleased 
by bis Holy Spirit to instruct me, and I expect to be taught, 
though I do not fix the time when, and the manner how it 
should be; when I am going to minister in the Word, I seek 
help from the Lord, and . . . am not cast down, but of good 
cheer because I look for his assistance." 

1 My authority for these statistics is the little work on Muller, by Fred- 
eric G. Warne, New York, 1898. 


Miiller's custom was to never run up bills, not even for a 
week. " As the Lord deals out to us by the day, . . . the 
week's payment might become due and we have no money to 
meet it ; and thus those with whom we deal might be incon- 
venienced by us, and we be found acting against the command- 
ment of the Lord : ' Owe no man anything.' From this day 
and henceforward whilst the Lord gives to us our supplies by 
the day, we purpose to pay at once for every article as it is 
purchased, and never to buy anything except we can pay for 
it at once, however much it may seem to be needed, and how- 
ever much those with whom we deal may wish to be paid only 
by the week." 

The articles needed of which Miiller speaks were the food, 
fuel, etc., of his orphanages. Somehow, near as they often 
come to going without a meal, they hardly ever seem actually 
to have done so. " Greater and more manifest nearness of the 
Lord's presence I have never had than when after breakfast 
there were no means for dinner for more than a hundred per- 
sons ; or when after dinner there were no means for the tea, 
and yet the Lord provided the tea ; and all this without one 
single human being having been informed about our need. . . . 
Through Grace my mind is so fully assured of the faithfulness 
of the Lord, that in the midst of the greatest need, I am en- 
abled in peace to go about my other work. Indeed, did not 
the Lord give me this, which is the result of trusting in him, I 
should scarcely be able to work at all ; for it is now compar- 
atively a rare thing that a day comes when I am not in need 
for one or another part of the work." 1 

In building his orphanages simply by prayer and faith, 
Miiller affirms that his prime motive was "to have something 
to point to as a visible proof that our God and Father is the 
same faithful God that he ever was, as willing as ever to 
prove himself the living God, in our day as formerly, to all 
that put their trust in him." 2 For this reason he refused to 
borrow money for any of his enterprises. " How does it work 

1 The Life of Trust ; Being a Narrative of the Lord's Dealings with 
George Miiller, New American edition, N. Y., Crowell, pp. 228, 194, 219. 

2 Ibid., p. 126. 


when we thus anticipate God by going our own way? We cer- 
tainly weaken faith instead of increasing it ; and each time we 
work thus a deliverance of our own we find it more and more 
difficult to trust in God, till at last we give way entirely to our 
natural fallen reason and unbelief prevails. How different if 
one is enabled to wait God's own time, and to look alone to 
him for help and deliverance ! When at last help comes, after 
many seasons of prayer it may be, how sweet it is, and what a 
present recompense ! Dear Christian reader, if you have never 
walked in this path of obedience before, do so now, and you 
will then know experimentally the sweetness of the joy which 
results from it." 1 

When the supplies came in but slowly, Miiller always con- 
sidered that this was for the trial of his faith and patience. 
When his faith and patience had been sufficiently tried, the 
Lord would send more means. " And thus it has proved," 
I quote from his diary, " for to-day was given me the sum of 
2050 pounds, of which 2000 are for the building fund [of a 
certain house], and 50 for present necessities. It is impossi- 
ble to describe my joy in God when I received this donation. I 
was neither excited nor surprised ; for I look out for answers 
to my prayers. / believe that God hears me. Yet my heart 
was so full of joy that I could only sit before God, and admire 
him, like David in 2 Samuel vii. At last I cast myself flat 
down upon my face and burst forth in thanksgiving to God 
and in surrendering my heart afresh to him for his blessed 
service." 2 

George Miiller's is a case extreme in every respect, and 
in no respect more so than in the extraordinary narrow- 
ness of the man's intellectual horizon. His God was, as 
he often said, his business partner. He seems to have 
been for Miiller little more than a sort of supernatural 
clergyman interested in the congregation of tradesmen 
and others in Bristol who were his saints, and in the 
orphanages and other enterprises, but unpossessed of 

1 Op. cit, p. 383, abridged. 2 Ibid., p. 323. 


any of those vaster and wilder and more ideal attributes 
with which the human imagination elsewhere has in- 
vested him. Miiller, in short, was absolutely unphiloso- 
phical. His intensely private and practical conception 
of his relations with the Deity continued the traditions 
of the most primitive human thought. 1 When we com- 
pare a mind like his with such a mind as, for example, 
Emerson's or Phillips Brooks's, we see the range which 
the religious consciousness covers. 

There is an immense literature relating to answers to 
petitional prayer. The evangelical journals are filled 

1 I cannot resist the temptation of quoting an expression of an even 
more primitive style of religious thought, which I find in Arber's English 
Garland, vol. vii. p. 440. Robert Lyde, an English sailor, along with an 
English boy, being prisoners on a French ship in 1689, set upon the crew, of 
seven Frenchmen, killed two, made the other five prisoners, and brought 
home the ship. Lyde thus describes how in this feat he found his God a 
very present help in time of trouble : 

" With the assistance of God I kept my feet when they three and one 
more did strive to throw me down. Feeling the Frenchman which buns: 
about my middle hang very heavy, I said to the boy, ' Go round the bin- 
nacle, and knock down that man that hangeth on my back.' So the boy 
did stnke him one blow on the head which made him fall. . . . Then I 
looked about for a marlin spike or anything else to strike them withal. But 
seeing nothing, I said, ' Lord ! what shall I do ? ' Then casting up my 
eye upon my left side, and seeing a marlin spike hanging, I jerked my right 
arm and took hold, and struck the point four times about a quarter of an 
inch deep into the skull of that man that had hold of my left arm. [One 
of the Frenchmen then hauled the marlin spike away from him.] But 
through God's wonderful providence ! it either fell out of his hand, or 
else he threw it down, and at this time the Almighty God gave me strength 
enough to take one man in one hand, and throw at the other's head : and 
looking about again to see anything to strike them withal, but seeing 
nothing, I said, ' Lord ! what shall I do now ? ' And then it pleased God 
to put me in mind of my knife in my pocket. And although two of the men 
had hold of my right arm, yet God Almighty strengthened me so that I 
put my right hand into my right pocket,, drew out the knife and sheath, . . . 
put it between my legs and drew it out, and then cut the man's throat with 
it that had his back to my breast : and he immediately dropt down, and 
scarce ever stirred after." I have slightly abridged Lyde's narrative. 


with such answers, and books are devoted to the subject, 1 
but for us Muller's case will suffice. 

A less sturdy beggar-like fashion of leading the prayer- 
ful life is followed by innumerable other Christians. 
Persistence in leaning on the Almighty for support and 
guidance will, such persons say, bring with it proofs, 
palpable but much more subtle, of his presence and active 
influence. The following description of a ' led ' life, by 
a German writer whom I have already quoted, would no 
doubt appear to countless Christians in every country as 
if transcribed from their own personal experience. One 
finds in this guided sort of life, says Dr. Hilty, 

" That books and words (and sometimes people) come to 
one's cognizance just at the very moment in which one needs 
them ; that one glides over great dangers as if with shut eyes, 
remaining ignorant of what would have terrified one or led one 
astray, until the peril is past this being especially the case 
with temptations to vanity and sensuality ; that paths on which 
one ought not to wander are, as it were, hedged off with thorns ; 
but that on the other side great obstacles are suddenly re- 
moved ; that when the time has come for something, one sud- 
denly receives a courage that formerly failed, or perceives the 
root of a matter that until then was concealed, or discovers 
thoughts, talents, yea, even pieces of knowledge and insight, 
in one's self, of which it is impossible to say whence they 
come ; finally, that persons help us or decline to help us, favor 
us or refuse us, as if they had to do so against their will, so 
that often those indifferent or even unfriendly to us yield us 
the greatest service and furtherance. (God takes often their 
worldly goods, from those whom he leads, at just the right 

1 As, for instance, In Answer to Prayer, by the Bishop of Ripon and 
others, London, 1898 ; Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to 
Prayer, Harrisburg, Pa., 1898 (?) ; H. L. Hastings : The Guiding Hand, 
or Providential Direction, illustrated by Authentic Instances, Boston, 
1898 (?). 


moment, when they threaten to impede the effort after higher 

" Besides all this, other noteworthy things come to pass, of 
which it is not easy to give account. There is no doubt what- 
ever that now one walks continually through ' open doors ' and 
on the easiest roads, with as little care and trouble as it is pos- 
sible to imagine. 

" Furthermore one finds one's self settling one's affairs neither 
too early nor too late, whereas they were wont to be spoiled by 
untimeliness, even when the preparations had been well laid. 
In addition to this, one does them with perfect tranquillity of 
mind, almost as if they were matters of no consequence, like 
errands done by us for another person, in which case we usually 
act more calmly than when we act in our own concerns. Again, 
one finds that one can wait for everything patiently, and that 
is one of life's great arts. One finds also that each thing comes 
duly, one thing after the other, so that one gains time to make 
one's footing sure before advancing farther. And then every- 
thing occurs to us at the right moment, just what we ought to 
do, etc., and often in a very striking way, just as if a third per- 
son were keeping watch over those things which we are in easy 
danger of forgetting. 

" Often, too, persons are sent to us at the right time, to offer 
or ask for what is needed, and what we should never have had 
the courage or resolution to undertake of our own accord. 

" Through all these experiences one finds that one is kindly 
and tolerant of other people, even of such as are repulsive, 
negligent, or ill-willed, for they also are instruments of good in 
God's hand, and often most efficient ones. Without these 
thoughts it would be hard for even the best of us always to 
keep our equanimity. But with the consciousness of divine 
guidance, one sees many a thing in life quite differently from 
what would otherwise be possible. 

" All these are things that every human being knows, who 
has had experience of them ; and of which the most speaking 
examples could be brought forward. The highest resources of 
worldly wisdom are unable to attain that which, under divine 
leading, comes to us of its own accord." 1 

1 C. Hilty : Gluck, Dritter Theil, 1900, pp. 92 ft. 


Such accounts as this shade away into others where 
the belief is, not that particular events are tempered more 
towardly to us by a superintending providence, as a 
reward for our reliance, but that by cultivating the con- 
tinuous sense of our connection with the power that 
made things as they are, we are tempered more towardly 
for their reception. The outward face of nature need 
not alter, but the expressions of meaning in it alter. It 
was dead and is alive again. It is like the difference 
between looking on a person without love, or upon the 
same person with love. In the latter case intercourse 
springs into new vitality. So when one's affections keep 
in touch with the divinity of the world's authorship, fear 
and egotism fall away ; and in the equanimity that fol- 
lows, one finds in the hours, as they succeed each other, 
a series of purely benignant opportunities. It is as if all 
doors were opened, and all paths freshly smoothed. We 
meet a new world when we meet the old world in the 
spirit which this kind of prayer infuses. 

Such a spirit was that of Marcus Aurelius and Epic- 
tetus. 1 It is that of mind-curers, of the transcendentalists, 
and of the so-called ' liberal ' Christians. As an expres- 

1 " Good Heaven ! " says Epictetus, " any one thing in the creation is suf- 
ficient to demonstrate a Providence, to a humble and grateful mind. The 
mere possibility of producing milk from grass, cheese from milk, and wool 
from skins ; who formed and planned it ? Ought we not, whether we dig 
or plough or eat, to sing this hymn to God ? Great is God, who has sup- 
plied us with these instruments to till the ground ; great is God, who has 
given us hands and instruments of digestion ; who has given us to grow 
insensibly and to breathe in sleep. These things we ought forever to cele- 
brate. . . . But because the most of you are blind and insensible, there 
must be some one to fill this station, and lead, in behalf of all men, the 
hymn to God ; for what else can I do, a lame old man, but sing hymns to 
God ? Were I a nightingale, I would act the part of a nightingale ; were 
I a swan, the part of a swan. But since I am a reasonable creature, it is 
my duty to praise God . . . and I call on you to join the same song." 
Works, book i. ch. xvi., Carter-Higginson translation, abridged. 


sion of it, I will quote a page from one of Martineau's 
sermons : 

" The universe, open to the eye to-day, looks as it did a thou- 
sand years ago : and the morning hymn of Milton does but tell 
the beauty with which our own familiar sun dressed the earliest 
fields and gardens of the world. We see what all our fathers 
saw. And if we cannot find God in your house or in mine, 
upon the roadside or the margin of the sea ; in the bursting 
seed or opening flower ; in the day duty or the night musing ; 
in the general laugh and the secret grief ; in the procession of 
life, ever entering afresh, and solemnly passing by and drop- 
ping off ; I do not think we should discern him any more on 
the grass of Eden, or beneath the moonlight of Gethsemane. 
Depend upon it, it is not the want of greater miracles, but of 
the soul to perceive such as are allowed us still, that makes us 
push all the sanctities into the far spaces we cannot reach. The 
devout feel that wherever God's hand is, there is miracle : and 
it is simply an indevoutness which imagines that only where 
miracle is, can there be the real hand of God. The customs of 
Heaven ought surely to be more sacred in our eyes than its 
anomalies ; the dear old ways, of which the Most High is never 
tired, than the strange things which he does not love well 
enough ever to repeat. And he who will but discern beneath 
the sun, as he rises any morning, the supporting finger of the 
Almighty, may recover the sweet and reverent surprise with 
which Adam gazed on the first dawn in Paradise. It is no 
outward change, no shifting in time or place ; but only the lov- 
ing meditation of the pure in heart, that can reawaken the 
Eternal from the sleep within our souls : that can render him a 
reality again, and reassert for him once more his ancient name 
of ' the Living God.' " l 

When we see all things in God, and refer all things to 
him, we read in common matters superior expressions of 

1 James Martineau : end of the sermon ' Help Thou Mine Unbelief,' in 
Endeavours after a Christian Life, 2d series. Compare with this page the 
extract from Voysey on p. 275, above, and those from Pascal and Madame 
Guyon on p. 286. 


meaning. The deadness with which custom invests the 
familiar vanishes, and existence as a whole appears trans- 
figured. The state of a mind thus awakened from tor- 
por is well expressed in these words, which I take from a 
friend's letter : 

" If we occupy ourselves in summing up all the mercies and 
bounties we are privileged to have, we are overwhelmed by 
their number (so great that we can imagine ourselves unable to 
give ourselves time even to begin to review the things we may 
imagine we have not). We sum them and realize that ive are 
actually hilled with GocVs kindness ; that we are surrounded 
by bounties upon bounties, without which all would fall. 
Should we not love it ; should we not feel buoyed up by the 
Eternal Arms ? " 

Sometimes this realization that facts are of divine send- 
ing, instead of being habitual, is casual, like a mystical 
experience. Father Gratry gives this instance from his 
youthful melancholy period : 

" One day I had a moment of consolation, because I met 
with something which seemed to me ideally perfect. It was a 
poor drummer beating the tattoo in the streets of Paris. I 
walked behind him in returning to the school on the evening of 
a holiday. His drum gave out the tattoo in such a way that, at 
that moment at least, however peevish I were, I could find no 
pretext for fault-finding. It was impossible to conceive more 
nerve or spirit, better time or measure, more clearness or rich- 
ness, than were in this drumming. Ideal desire could go no 
farther in that direction. I was enchanted and consoled ; the 
perfection of this wretched act did me good. Good is at least 
possible, I said, since the ideal can thus sometimes get em- 

In Senancour's novel of Obermann a similar transient 
lifting of the veil is recorded. In Paris streets, on a 
March day, he comes across a flower in bloom, a jonquil : 

1 Souvenirs de ma Jeunesse, 1897, p. 122. 


" It was the strongest expression of desire : it was the first 
perfume of the year. I felt all the happiness destined for man. 
This unutterable harmony of souls, the phantom of the ideal 
world, arose in me complete. I never felt anything so great or 
so instantaneous. I know not what shape, what analogy, what 
secret of relation it was that made me see in this flower a lim- 
itless beauty. ... I shall never inclose in a conception this 
power, this immensity that nothing will express ; this form that 
nothing will contain ; this ideal of a better world which one 
feels, but which, it seems, nature has not made actual." 1 

We heard in previous lectures of the vivified face of 
the world as it may appear to converts after their awak- 
ening. 2 As a rule, religious persons generally assume 
that whatever natural facts connect themselves in any 
way with their destiny are significant of the divine pur- 
poses with them. Through prayer the purpose, often far 
from obvious, comes home to them, and if it be ' trial,' 
strength to endure the trial is given. Thus at all stages 
of the prayerful life we find the persuasion that in the 
process of communion energy from on high flows in to 
meet demand, and becomes operative within the pheno- 
menal world. So long as this operativeness is admitted 
to be real, it makes no essential difference whether its 
immediate effects be subjective or objective. The funda- 
mental religious point is that in prayer, spiritual energy, 
which otherwise would slumber, does become active, and 
spiritual work of some kind is effected really. 

So much for Prayer, taken in the wide sense of any 
kind of communion. As the core of religion, we must 
return to it in the next lecture. 

The last aspect of the religious life which remains for 

1 Op. cit., Letter XXX. 

2 Above, p. 248 ff. Compare the withdrawal of expression from the 
world, in Melancholiacs, p. 151. 


in e to touch upon is the fact that its manifestations so 
frequently connect themselves with the subconscious part 
of our existence. You may remember what I said in 
my opening lecture * about the prevalence of the psycho- 
pathic temperament in religious biography. You will in 
point of fact hardly find a religious leader of any kind 
in whose life there is no record of automatisms. I speak 
not merely of savage priests and prophets, whose follow- 
ers regard automatic utterance and action as by itself 
tantamount to inspiration, I speak of leaders of thought 
and subjects of intellectualized experience. Saint Paul 
had his visions, his ecstasies, his gift of tongues, small 
as was the importance he attached to the latter. The 
whole array of Christian saints and heresiarchs, including 
the greatest, the Bernards, the Loyolas, the Luthers, the 
Foxes, the Wesleys, had their visions, voices, rapt condi- 
tions, guiding impressions, and ' openings.' They had 
these things, because they had exalted sensibility, and to 
such things persons of exalted sensibility are liable. In 
such liability there lie, however, consequences for theology. 
Beliefs are strengthened wherever automatisms corrob- 
orate them. Incursions from beyond the transmarginal 
region have a peculiar power to increase conviction. The 
inchoate sense of presence is infinitely stronger than con- 
ception, but strong as it may be, it is seldom equal to 
the evidence of hallucination. Saints who actually see or 
hear their Saviour reach the -acme of assurance. Motor 
automatisms, though rarer, are, if possible, even more 
convincing than sensations. The